We’re doin’ it live: Let’s talk Apple HomePod

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    After what seems like an endless wait, Apple’s HomePod finally lands this week. You can read our freshly posted review — it’s the next best thing to actually buying the thing (and a lot less experience).

    We’re also trying something a bit new, with a liveblog reaction, discussing Apple’s first foray into the smart speaker category and answering some questions along the way.  If you’ve got any burning queries about the product, feel free to reach out to Matthew (@panzer), Megan (@meganrosedickey) and myself (@bheater) over on Twitter, and we’ll do our best to answer them down below.

    Of course, Apple’s far from the first company to enter the category. Both Amazon and Google have been operating in the smart speaker space for some time with the Echo and Home (respectively). But the HomePod marks an important next step for Siri, finally bringing the smart assistant into the living room in a meaningful way. And, of course the product does so in a way that’s uniquely Apple.


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20189:01 am

    Thanks for raging! 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20189:01 am

    Bueno, thanks all!


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20189:01 am

    As far as whether Sonos should be worried about this, I’d say…not yet? We’ll have to see how the multi-room update goes.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20189:01 am

    All right, I think that about wraps ‘er up. Thanks for joining us!


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20189:00 am

    Brian: Sort of. I use it the most by default and really like it these days. But I also have subs to Amazon Prime Music Plus or whatever it’s called and Google Play Music, mostly because I bounce around devices a lot.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:59 am

    Question: Have you tried listening to it outside, like in a backyard party situation?

    (via Jeff Phillips)

    YES. Works great on the patio, no real difference. Obviously you won’t get the fancy wall based stuff.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:58 am

    Matthew, are you all in on Apple Music now? 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:57 am

    Google obviously has a leg up on the rest from the standpoint of contextual information and search. The company’s got a broad database of information to build on, and it really feels like it’s create something powerful here. Assistant represents a cross section of a lot of work from a lot of different Google departments. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:56 am

    Just a gentle note that the issue of debating between one smart assistant over another is a very first world problem about a first world luxury. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:56 am

    “that’s not a mug, this is a mug” *Dundee*


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:56 am

    Important update: 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:55 am

    The company has been pretty open and aggressive with HomeKit integration, but actually putting Siri in products is another question entirely. That’s more akin to shipping third-party phones with iOS, which is obviously a big no-no. But that’s the next big step for the growth of Alexa and Assistant. Smart speakers are really a stepping stone to broader integration in smart home devices. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:54 am

    Currently? Alexa. Though Google if my Android phone was my daily driver, which it is and isn’t depending on the week.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:53 am

    I talked about this a bit in the piece but I genuinely feel that calling out to a smart assistant and not having it respond makes you feel dumb and is a barrier to adoption/use. I’m sure there’s a study on this. #feeldumbery


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:53 am

    Apple’s definitely doing a controlled roll out here. I’d expect that if/when Siri does open up to third parties, it’s going to keep a tight vetting process in place like it does with the App Store, making sure things are best tailored to the experience. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:53 am

    Ok, so if you all had to pick one smart assistant, in its current form, to use for the rest of your life, which one would it be?


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:52 am

    Yeah, the way it picks up trigger phrases is one of the best ‘magic tricks’ of HomePod. They got that bit real right.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:52 am

    I think if Apple expanded core Siri integrations to 20-30 types people would have a lot less to complain about vs. Echo. There’s an enormous amount of ‘apps’ available on Echo but the vast majority of them are terrible. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:52 am

    That’s pretty cool. Sometimes my Google Home Mini has a hard time hearing me if the music is bumping


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:51 am

    Siri can’t do a lot but that it can do what it says with authority is a much better place to start than going too fast and implementation being crap. I would really love to see 15-20 new integrations mid year and full API next year, but that’s just my pea brain. And, as I stated, the trigger recognition is really great. It felt super fun to talk at a normal volume underneath a loud song and get heard


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:51 am

    Apple does have the opportunity to make up marketshare in other countries if it plays its cards right. Amazon and Google have been rolling out to other markets with local voices/languages/interests, but the smart speaker is still largely a US phenomenon. 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:49 am

    That feature defaults to NPR, but you can switch it to other sources like Fox, because fake news. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:49 am

    Does it work in other languages than English? What happens if you change the Siri language to French, Norwegian, Spanish etc? – @maarstad
    English only for now. Sorry. You can buy one if you can get one in another country but it will only work in English.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:49 am

    I’m really glad they rolled out news on iOS 11 ahead of the launch, though. That’s one of my favorite Alexa/Assistant features. It’s nice getting a quick briefing in the morning when you’re getting ready for work. 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:48 am

    There are some basic important assistant things you can’t do here — like, say, adding appointments to your calendar. A lot of the functionality (like calling) also requires that your phone be present. Oh yeah, and, of course, you have to have an iOS device to set the HomePod up in the first place. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:47 am

    This right here is the juice from your review, Panz: “The HomePod sounds great but on the surface, it’s debatable whether it’s great enough to justify the limitations of its smart features when compared purely on those merits and not as a component of the Apple ecosystem.”

    Apple should’ve pulled that quote instead


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:47 am

    Let’s talk Siri. One of the consensus opinions was that the smart assistant’s functionality was limited here. And Apple says that was by design, focusing on the things people “most use” with their smart assistant — weather, traffic and the like. How much of that was a conscious decision on the company’s part and how much is just Apple playing catch up to Amazon and Google’s 2+ year head start? 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:46 am

    I am asking my Yahoo sources to provide.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:45 am

    We need a pic of that huge Marisa Mayer mug from the first webcast Yahoo earnings.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:45 am

    We both love coffee and hate the free and open internet.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:44 am

    That is my preferred mug size. Ajit and me. Peas in a pod.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:44 am

    About the HomePod, silly question, how much of a dust magnet is it likely to be and should this influence which to buy? – wyatt counts

    I’d get the black to be sure, but I want the white. Aside from the bit on top I don’t think you’re going to notice dust much but I also don’t have the white one. My kid did grab it with sticky hands and I wiped it down and it looked fine afterwards. Anecdotally.


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:44 am

    HEHE! 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:44 am

    Live shot of Matthew drinking his coffee this morning. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:43 am

    Question from Wyatt Counts: About the HomePod, silly question, how much of a dust magnet is it likely to be and should this influence which to buy?

    Answer: Ask again in about a month


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:43 am

    They do everything big at ILM


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:43 am

    That mug is a bit bigger than typical, but not much.


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:42 am

    that’s a large mug


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:42 am

    RE size, here it is next to my ILM mug


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:42 am

    Megan: Yes that’s right. AirPlay only.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:42 am

    Question: If I put this speaker in the kitchen, how does it handle liquid spills, either on the counter nearby or directly on top? (Via Tomas Sancio)
    Don’t spill anything on your $349 speaker. It’s not waterproof and you’re not made of money, damn it. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:41 am

    Brian: The Max sounded good in different rooms, but nothing like the hyper flexible soundscape of the HomePod. Because it can choose to fire any or all of the speakers and slice the sound up between them it’s far more limber.


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:41 am

    I’m still not over the lack of Spotify integration. But to be clear, you technically can play Spotify via the HomePod, but it has to be done through AirPlay. And that effectively means that you can’t say “Siri, play my music on Spotify” but you can go on your iPhone, tap a few things and then stream Spotify to the HP via AirPlay. Is that right, Panz?


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:41 am

    There were some talk when it was announced about it being a hub for HomeKit, is that still a thing? How will it be supporting IoT devices? – @hakonbogen
    I go over this in my review but yes it is a HomeKit hub so you can use it to extend BTLE devices locally and to access HomeKit devices remotely. It doesn’t work with non-HomeKit devices.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:40 am

    Another Q for you. Both the HomePod and Max claim to have a room adapting sound feature. Did one seem to work better than the other? The HomePod seems to have a leg up with 360-degree speakers. 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:39 am

    Question: In terms of size, what household item does it most closely represent? (via Travis Bernard)
    It looks like one of those Heineken mini kegs to me. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:38 am

    It’s not that common. Woofers are normally placed low and fire down, as with the Home Max. But Apple put it at the top and fired it upwards. It makes sense due to the compact size but it makes the engineering harder because you have to dampen shock all the way down through the structure. It also makes multi surface stuff easier because you’re not relying on the floor to transmit the bass.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:37 am

    I’ve got a Q, Matthew. The woofer is on top. How common is that in high-end speaker design?


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:37 am

    Ok, not “more speakers”, but bigger speakers and louder maximum output. You know what I mean Brian.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:37 am


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:36 am

    The Home Max is clearly louder overall though. More speakers. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:35 am

    Yes, being able to sort of plug in your primary streaming service is nice. I believe the Sonos app handles it this way as well.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:35 am

    I really wanted to like the sound on the Max. Matthew’s right about the build quality, but the HomePod just sounds better (and is $50 cheaper). Glad Apple took its time to get this one right. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:35 am

    Did you apply Sonos’ audio calibration before comparison? – @harlekyn
    YES. I did. Not sure if it was as clear as it could have been in the article but I absolutely calibrated the Sonos as recommended. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:35 am

    Heatman, I LOVE that about my Google Home Mini re Spotify


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:33 am

    It’s definitely more than enough speaker for an apartment. Especially and SF-sized one. You’d never be at max volume.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:33 am

    Back to the Spotify question — it’s worth noting that Google has really done right by this one. When setting up the Max and other Home devices, the software involves a step wherein you choose your preferred streaming service. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:33 am

    can you start an album partway thru and have it continue playing the album? for instance request devil in a new dress and have it play runaway, hell of a life, etc. after? – @nicetrycody
    Yep. You can say ‘play the rest of this album’ for instance. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:33 am

    But I personally don’t need that loud of a speaker for my tiny ass SF apartment, ya dig? If I could afford a real house, then I’d be more down to clown with the HomePod


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:32 am

    Panz, the sound was obviously amazing. It disturbed just about errbody in the office who was actually trying to get work done. I think you still owe Emma an apology 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:31 am

    There’s no aux or other input on the back of the speaker, but you can use AirPlay if you want to use Spotify and the like through your computer. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:31 am

    Megan, what was your impression of the sound in the office?


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:31 am

    Good ol’ Sajizzle. Love that person


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:31 am

    Question: Can you connect a manual input to the HomerPod? (Via Sajizzle)]
    Nope.


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:30 am

    I think that’s right to a degree Brian. I also think that once the Siri API adds music hooks we could see “native” Spotify support. But I don’t think that’s an urgent thing for them.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:30 am

    Question: Why would they not support Spotify? Do you think they ever will? (Via Hakon Bogen)

    Because Apple’s always been an ecosystem focused company. The differences between Spotify and Apple Music are pretty much null at this point. Apple compatibility is one of the chief differentiators. 


    Travis Bernard
    February 7, 20188:29 am

    Question: If I put this speaker in the kitchen, how does it handle liquid spills, either on the counter nearby or directly on top? (Via Tomas Sancio)


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:29 am

    Heatman, that’s nutso. Meanwhile, I can buy a million Echo Dots for $40 a pop


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:29 am

    Question: Did you get the impression that the Fullroom software update is imminent? (via Jonathan Beadle)
    So there are actually two software updates coming that have to do with multi room functionality. Full room sound is the ‘two HomePods working in a pair (which Apple says is better than stereo) software. There is also a Multi-Room update coming that will allow them to work throughout the house all at once. The full room/stereo update is coming first and I got the feeling that it is on the way soon. No idea on Multi-Room.


    Travis Bernard
    February 7, 20188:28 am

    Question: Why would they not support Spotify? Do you think they ever will? (Via Hakon Bogen)


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:28 am

    Obviously, with only one Siri speaker on the market, multi-room audio is going to cost you at $349 a pop. 


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:27 am

    Apple hasn’t mentioned anything with regard to near-field technology, the kind of tech Amazon and Google use to manage multiple devices in the same space. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:27 am

    I think as a way to integrate existing users more tightly it’s fine. It’s not going to be the tipping point for new users IMO.


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:27 am

    From HP aka Henry Pickavet: “How are you going to be this far behind google home and amazon echo and have limited Siri functionality?”


    Travis Bernard
    February 7, 20188:27 am

    Question: Did you get the impression that the Fullroom software update is imminent? (via Jonathan Beadle)


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:27 am

    The multi-speaker functionality is forthcoming. I’d anticipate more news on that front at WWDC. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:26 am

    So I do cover the max volume question in my review. A 20×30 foot a carpeted room I feel is the max without volume suffering. Hardwood or other reflective surfaces would increase the size of that room. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:26 am

    And you have to essentially be locked in to Apple’s ecosystem i.e. no official Spotify integration. If we had an emoji that cried blood, it’d be right here.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:25 am

    It’s safe to say there’s a consensus across the board with all of the reviews thus far. Great sound, but limited Siri functionality. 


    Travis Bernard
    February 7, 20188:25 am

    Question: At max volume, how big of a room can the sound cover?


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:24 am

    We’re getting some questions queued up here. 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:23 am

    I am playing music on my HomePod right now. Are you playing one on yours?


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:23 am

    It does sound really good. But, ya know, my JBL speaker that I bought for $79 also sounds really good


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:23 am

    Look. I am a living quote machine. It’s not my fault.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:23 am

    It’s okay to like things. Even tech things. 


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:23 am

    Lol. I’m glad we’re addressing the pull quote


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:22 am

    Brian, I would say that because I said that in my review. Unfortunately, it is now a pull quote and I am cringing hard.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:22 am

    Why do you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:22 am

    I’d rather have a HomePod in front of me than have to have a frontal lobotomy. Just different ways of dealing with the pain.


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:22 am

    Matthew, would you say that the HomePod is “easily the best sounding mainstream speaker, ever?”


    Brian Heater
    February 7, 20188:21 am


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:21 am

    I, for one, will not be buying the HP. Can I refer to it as HP? Or is that confusing for people? 


    Matthew Panzarino
    February 7, 20188:20 am


    Megan Rose Dickey
    February 7, 20188:20 am

    Wassup suckers? Ready to rage on this HomePod?

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