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  • Video: Apple HomePod vs. Google Home Max

    Apple's HomePod and Google's Home Max are both vying for the high end of the audio market. But which one is worth your hard earned cash? AppleInsider put these premium speakers to the test to tell you which one wins out.

    If you're trying to choose a smart speaker with high-quality audio, Apple's HomePod and Google's Home Max are great choices.

    If you're not willing to spend 350 to 400 dollars on a single speaker, then the Sonos One is the perfect choice for you.

    You can also check out our HomePod vs. Sonos One comparison.

    Apple HomePod versus Google Home Max smart speaker

    First of all, if you don't own an iPhone, you should probably just go with the Google Home Max, since it supports both aAdroid and iOS.

    The HomePod is a really great speaker, but it definitely has its limitations.

    Siri is undoubtedly worse than both Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

    However, on the HomePod, everything's encrypted, so even Apple has no idea what you're saying to it.

    This is why the HomePod doesn't have a mute switch like the Google Home Max does.

    On the other hand, it has a pretty big flaw -- it can't register or recognize multiple voices.

    So if you have personal requests turned on, anyone can ask Siri to read your messages.

    Luckily, those things can be fixed with software updates.

    What can't get fixed, however, is hardware, so let's talk specs.

    The Max is over twice as heavy as the HomePod, coming in at 11.7 pounds compared to 5.5.

    The HomePod is very compact compared to the Max, so it has more flexibility for placement.

    The HomePod has seven tweeters and one subwoofer. The tweeters are horn-loaded, and can focus sound in 360 degrees around the HomePod.

    The Max has two subwoofers and two tweeters that face frontward, so you're forced to put it against a wall or in a corner if you want the best results.

    Both speakers use six far-field microphones to detect the space they're in and automatically balance sound output, but there's not much to balance on the Max compared to the HomePod, since all the speakers are facing one direction anyways.

    The HomePod has a 4-inch woofer compared to two 4.5-inch woofers on the Max, but the HomePod uses special technology that allows for 20 millimeters of woofer travel compared to only 11 millimeters on each woofer in the Max, so this single woofer should be able to hold its ground.

    The Max has a 3.5mm Auxiliary port, as well as a usb-c port that can be used for a wired internet connection.

    The HomePod has neither, but it does offer more touch controls compared to the Max, which can only pause/play and adjust the volume.

    You can double tap the center to skip to next track, triple-tap for the previous track, and tap and hold to invoke Siri.

    The Google Home Max can actually do hands-free calling. With the HomePod, you have to manually call with your phone, and then switch the output to the HomePod

    The Max can be placed horizontally to play stereo sound.

    It comes with a magnetic rubber pad so you can easily place it vertically, which will automatically switch the Max to mono mode.

    Unlike the HomePod, the rubber pad won't leave a white ring on furniture.

    The HomePod can actually reproduce stereo sound by splitting channels between its 7 tweeters.

    But as you can tell, stereo works better on the Home Max since it actually has 2 sets of speakers side by side.

    You can also pair two Home Max speakers, either horizontally or vertically, and they will work in stereo. You can place them in different rooms for multi-room audio by creating audio groups, which can contain any combination of google home or Chromecast audio devices.

    You won't be able to natively pair two HomePods for true stereo sound and multi-room audio until AirPlay 2 is released.

    We were actually able to pair two HomePods without using Airplay 2 by using a couple of methods.

    The Max supports voice control for music services such as YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora and Google Play Music.

    Home Max doesn't support Apple Music, but it can play it using Bluetooth.

    Volume wise, the Google Home Max completely blows the HomePod out of the water.

    There is definitely some distortion to be heard past 80 percent volume on the Home Max, especially in the highs.

    Most people wouldn't listen to it past 80% volume unless they're hosting a house party or watching a movie on their TV using Chromecast.

    Also, at least 80 percent volume, the Max has a very hard time hearing commands.

    This makes for an awkward situation if a guest comes and you have to run over to turn the volume down.

    The HomePod however, can also have some trouble, but only when maxed out.

    We set both speakers to 50 percent volume to test the sound quality.

    Interestingly, the HomePod beats out the Google Home Max in terms of bass.

    The Home Max sounded muffled at 50 percent volume, the mids just didn't stand out at all.

    We tested multiple songs, and the HomePod is hands-down the winner when listening at medium volumes.

    We played a very bass heavy song, and the HomePod did a great job of maintaining audio reproduction of high and mid frequencies during the bass notes compared to the Max.

    As you can hear, the bass on the HomePod is also much, much deeper.

    If you're into music and enjoy lots of deep bass, the HomePod is the better choice.

    In conclusion, the HomePod is the clear winner for sound quality, with extremely clear audio reproduction and no distortion at all.

    However, after listening to the Home Max, you really start to wish it could get at least a little bit louder.

    If you aren't planning on blasting the music on your new smart speaker, and enjoy listening at lower volumes, the HomePod is definitely the right choice.

    The Home Max's highs are definitely louder and brighter at higher volumes, so if you really enjoy sharp highs, then get the Max.

    Fortunately, there isn't enough of a difference between the two to justify buying one or the other for sound quality reasons alone.

    If you really care about the smart side of the speakers, then the Google Home Max is the obvious choice.

    The Max doesn't natively support Apple Music and the Apple ecosystem, yet that's the only thing the HomePod natively supports.

    If you already have an Apple Music subscription, definitely buy the HomePod.

    If you've got a subscription for any other music service that's supported by Home Max, and don't think it's worth switching over to Apple Music, then definitely buy the Home Max.
  • iPhone and Apple Watch Emergency SOS feature save woman, child after collision

    After a horrifying collision with a drunk driver at a stoplight, a woman saved her life by calling for help with her Apple Watch with its SOS feature.

    Kacie Anderson was stopped at a red light in late 2017 when her car was hit from the rear by a drunk driver. The car was launched by the force of the crash, and the occupants were buffeted until the vehicle came to a stop.

    "The moment he hit us everything inside the car went airborne. My face took a horrible blow to the steering wheel, headrest, back to the steering wheel, and then to the window. I blacked out for about a minute and could not see. My eyes were wide open but all I saw was black," Anderson told Shape on Friday. "My hands flew around to feel for my phone and then I realized I had my watch on and commanded it to call 911."

    The child in the car had only minor bruising and scrapes, presumably protected by the car seat. After extraction by paramedics, Anderson was discovered to have a severe concussion, brain swelling, and bulging disks from the accident -- with repercussions from the accident still being dealt with.

    Apple's watchOS 3 brought with it the Emergency SOS feature. Anderson probably invoked it by holding the side button for six seconds, which then attempts to call emergency services either through the wireless connection on a Series 3 Apple Watch with LTE, or through a linked iPhone.
    brian green
  • iDevices debuts HomeKit-compatible Instant Switch wireless wall switch

    Smarthome accessory maker iDevices expanded to its range of HomeKit-connected hardware on Friday with Instant Switch, an easy to mount wall switch that connects to and controls most iDevices products.

    iDevices Instant Switch

    Originally promised to launch last year, Instant Switch is iDevices' take on installation free smart accessory switches that have gained in popularity over the past year.

    Similar in function to Logitech POP and Philips Hue Dimmer Switch, Instant Switch is a hassle-free solution for controlling iDevices power and lighting products. With HomeKit integration, users can control Instant Switch via Siri and include the device in house-wide scenes. Amazon Alexa support is also included.

    Using Bluetooth, the battery-powered Instant Switch pairs with iDevices products like the Switch WiFi Smart Plug or Socket light bulb adapter to provide remote control from almost anywhere in a user's home. Along with basic on/off control for plugs and adapters, Instant Switch can connect to the iDevices Wall Switch or Dimmer Switch, both hardwired solutions, to automatically create a 3- or 4-way control configuration.

    Unfortunately, Instant Switch does not support the iDevices Thermostat, though that model can be directly controlled from the Home app and included in HomeKit scenes.

    Boasting a sleek flat panel design, Instant Switch can be mounted to a wall with the included 3M Command Strip, offering the aesthetic of a traditional residential electrical switch box cover. Users can customize their installation by swapping out the faceplate with any standard two-screw panel that accommodates standard rocker switches. A built-in level helps with installation.

    As a semi-permanent device, Instant Switch comes with a pre-installed battery said to last for two years under normal use conditions.

    Instant Switch is available now from iDevices' website and for $34.95.
  • Watch: The best Siri commands for HomePod

    Apple's HomePod is out and users are impressed by the smart speaker's premium sound quality, but some have yet to take full advantage of its voice control functionality. To help users get started, AppleInsider collected a few useful phrases and commands that highlight Siri's capabilities.

    Here's a list of the commands seen in the video above. Try them out with your HomePod by first invoking Siri by saying, "Hey Siri."

    • Play Beats 1 radio
    • Set volume to 50%
    • Who sings this song?
    • Add this song to my favorites
    • Add this song to my Apple Watch playlist.
    • Play some classical orchestra music
    • Remind me to go to the store today
    • Read my reminders
    Alarms and timers:
    • Set an alarm for [time]
    • I'm awake

    • Set an alarm for 7 in the morning and make it repeat everyday
    • Delete my [time] alarm

    • Set a timer for half an hour.
    • How much time is left on the timer?
    • Stop the timer

    • When is daylight savings time?
    • Make a shopping list
    • Add bananas to shopping list
    • Read my shopping list
    • Delete my shopping list
    Conversions, translation and language:
    • How many ounces are in a cup?
    • How many teaspoons make one tablespoon?
    • How many calories are in a tortilla?
    • How many calories are in an orange?

    • How do you say see you later in french?
    • Translate Nice to meet you in Chinese.
    • Convert 50 dollars to euros
    • Define inevitable
    • What's 80 x $21.59
    • Now Multiply that by 24
    • What's 20% of that?
    • What's the traffic like going to work?
    • How long does it take to drive to Seattle?
    • Where's the closest gas station?
    • Where can I buy some flowers?
    • Where can I buy a replacement light bulb?
    • Where's the nearest ATM?
    • Where's the nearest Redbox?
    • Where can I get some coffee?
    • Where's the nearest pizza place?
    Current events:
    • What's the news today?
    • Switch to Fox News.
    • Give me the latest sports news.
    • How's the stock market today?
    • What's the best movie out right now?
    • Give me showtimes for Jumanji.
    • How tall is mount everest?
    • Flip a coin
    • Do you work for the FBI?

    We'll be looking at HomeKit commands in a future video, so stay tuned.

    For more reviews, news, tips, features and more, subscribe to AppleInsider on YouTube.
  • Acoustic testing finds HomePod's adaptive audio tech delivers highly consistent sound

    In its advertising push for HomePod, Apple has touted its smart speaker as capable of delivering consistent sound to listeners positioned anywhere in a given room. New testing backs up those claims, and offers insight into how the company accomplished such a feat.

    As part of an ongoing HomePod evaluation, Fast Company partnered with professional acoustic analysis hardware and software maker NTi Audio to measure the speaker's performance in reporter Mark Sullivan's living room.

    Setting up HomePod on a table near a wall, a specialized microphone was used to capture white noise test sound from four different locations. Results were compared to generate a sound profile for the speaker, which displayed an average variance of 0.95 decibels across all audible frequency bands.

    As NTi notes, humans are typically unable to detect changes below a decibel, meaning this particular test backs up Apple's claims that HomePod will deliver consistent sound to listeners positioned just about anywhere in a room.

    "The developers have done an excellent job of having the HomePod adjust to the room; (it has) Impressive consistency in overall level and frequency response," said Brian MacMillan, associate general manager at NTi. "The HomePod automates spatial compensation that previously required a real audiophile's expertise, tools and time."

    To achieve such consistency, HomePod employs an array of six exterior microphones and a digital signal processor to analyze its surrounding environment. Another microphone located inside HomePod's chassis detects nearby objects like walls and other large obstacles that might interfere with generated sound waves.

    An onboard A8 chip applies collected microphone data to advanced algorithms to dynamically modify sound output from each of the speaker's seven tweeters and its single woofer. These adjustments are made when HomePod is set up, moved and during music playback.

    The result is highly consistent, adaptive and immersive audio. Most importantly, the entire process is performed in the background without manual intervention from the user.

    The Fast Company analysis validates AppleInsider's report detailing the inner workings of HomePod's audio magic and follows a similar evaluation that found Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.