HomePod First Listen Impressions: ‘Incredible’ Audio With Bass-Heavy Sound That Easily Beats Echo

Following an unveiling at WWDC yesterday, Apple let members of the press get a close-up look at its new Siri-enabled speaker, HomePod, but due to the loudness of the area it was impossible for WWDC attendees to really determine HomePod's sound quality. Now, a few websites have gotten the chance to hear how HomePod sounds in a normal environment, and shared their opinions of the device online.

According to Mashable, Apple played listeners five songs across four genres and the device had "very good audio." The HomePod starts up by playing 360-degree audio to itself so it can learn the space it's in, and then adjusts any subsequent music that's played with the knowledge of the size of the room.

HomePod requires constant AC power for music playback

Mashable said this worked, and "no matter where I walked in the small listening room, the sound was consistent."
The audio wasn't just loud — filling a room with sound, good or bad, is easy — it was rich. The highs were sharp, but not broken. The lows were deep, sonorous, but not chest-thumping.

A classic song with a far less complex mix sounded warm and true and one of Kendrick Lamar’s beat-heavy tunes showed off the HomePod’s bass prowess, I also listened to a live recording of the Eagles' Hotel California on a pair of HomePods. I noticed that the audience cheers primarily came from one speaker, along with some ambient music sounds and the mains came from the HomePod almost directly in front of me. I did not feel like I was at the live concert, but I was still impressed with the audio quality.
Mashable noted that Apple had in-room comparisons with its competitors, including Sonos Play:3 and Amazon Echo, and that the HomePod easily beat the two other speakers in pure music playback quality. The site noted the disadvantages users face if they don't use Apple Music, and was unsure how any of the smart home controls would work as press was only allowed access to non-functional demo units, but was ultimately left impressed with HomePod, calling it a "very good speaker" and looking forward to testing it more as December grows nearer.
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Tim Cook Says HomePod Experience Will Blow People Away

In an interview today with Bloomberg TV, Apple CEO Tim Cook said customers will be "blown away" by the experience of the HomePod.


"I think people are going to love it. I know they are," said Cook. "I think they're going to be blown away by the experience."

When questioned about why a customer should choose to purchase the HomePod over the Amazon Echo or Google Home, especially considering it's the most expensive of the three, Cook said Apple's focus was on creating a "breakthrough speaker" that delivers a high-quality audio experience in the home.

"What we tried to do is build something that is a breakthrough speaker first," said Cook. "Music is deep in our DNA, dating back to iTunes and iPod. We wanted something that, number one, sounded unbelievable. I think when people listen to it, they're going to be shocked over the quality of the sound."

A portion of Apple CEO Tim Cook's interview with Bloomberg TV today

Nevertheless, Cook acknowledged that both Apple and customers want a speaker that does more than simply play music.

"Of course, it does a lot of other things, right, and all of those are important as well, but we wanted a really high-quality audio experience," said Cook.

"There's a lot of things you can do with it," he added. "There's a lot of things that Siri knows how to do from the phone. We'll start with a patch of those as [Apple marketing chief] Phil [Schiller] showed today during the keynote, and then you can bet there's a nice follow-on activity there as well."

Cook said Apple has been working on the HomePod for "multiple years," and as usual, it wasn't focused on being first to the market.

"We didn't have the first MP3 player. We didn't have the first smartphone. We didn't have the first tablet," he said. "For us, it's not about being first. It's about being the best, and giving users an experience that delights them every time. We don't let that impatience result in shipping something that's just not great."

Cook also briefly reflected on today's iOS 11 announcements, ARKit serving as a "foundation" for Apple's augmented reality efforts, and why he elected against joining U.S. President Donald Trump's various councils and committees.

HomePod will be available in December for $349 in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It'll launch in other countries next year.

Related Roundup: Siri Smart Speaker
Tags: Tim Cook, Bloomberg TV

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Here’s How Apple’s New HomePod Speaker and iMac Pro Look in Person

Following the WWDC 2017 keynote today in San Jose, Apple invited members of the media for some hands on time with HomePod, its new Siri-enabled smart speaker and hub for controlling HomeKit accessories.

CNET has shared a gallery of HomePod pictures that provides a close-up look at the speaker, which looks somewhat like a smaller Mac Pro covered in a seamless mesh fabric. It'll be available in White and Space Gray.


The top of the HomePod has a glossy finish with Siri colors glowing in the center. Since it's designed for home use, the HomePod doesn't have a battery, so it must be plugged into a wall outlet or other power source at all times.


Meanwhile, Engadget has shared a gallery of iMac Pro pictures that show the all-in-one desktop computer in its stealthy new Space Gray finish, accompanied by a color-matched Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse, and Magic Trackpad.


Apple said both the HomePod and iMac Pro will be available in December for $349 and $4,999 respectively.

Related Roundups: iMac, Siri Smart Speaker
Buyer's Guide: iMac (Don't Buy)

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Apple Unveils $349 HomePod Smart Speaker to be Available in December

Apple today announced its plans to "reinvent home music" with the unveiling of its newest product, HomePod, a wireless speaker powered by Apple's A8 chip with Siri integration that's just under 7 inches tall.


Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.
HomePod is a combination of high quality music playback speakers and smart speaker systems that are on the market today. The HomePod can intelligently detect the space it is in with "spatial awareness," which the company said provides better quality audio playback than its competitors.

HomePod has an upward-facing woofer and an array of seven beam-forming tweeters. It has a six-microphone array that can detect commands even when music is playing loudly. When there are two HomePods in a room, they will automatically detect each other and optimize music playback complementarily. Setting up a new HomePod works similarly to AirPods set up--simply holding an iPhone near a HomePod will pair it.


HomePod automatically works with an Apple Music subscription and can play back playlists, radio stations, and more content found within Apple Music. Siri commands will let users direct the HomePod to play music, add songs to playlists, and even answer music trivia questions.

Siri will also act as a home assistant and include support for News, Messages, Podcasts, Stocks, Weather, Reminders, alarms, timers, sports and traffic. HomePod will also be a HomeKit hub and let users control lights, blinds, locks, and other accessories by voice, even when users are away from home.

The HomePod will launch in December for $349 and will be available in white and space gray in the US, UK, and Australia to start.

Related Roundups: Siri Smart Speaker, WWDC 2017

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Apple to Expand Siri to Work With More Types of Third-Party Apps

At its Worldwide Developers Conference next week, Apple is expected to expand Siri's functionality, allowing the voice assistant built into the iPhone and iPad to work with a wider variety of apps, reports Reuters.

Apple first started allowing third-party apps to interface with Siri with iOS 10, but Siri integration is limited to apps in the following categories: ride booking, messaging, photo search, payments, VoIP calling, and fitness. In iOS 11, that's expected to expand to additional categories, but it is unclear which categories will be added.

Apple Inc is expected to announce plans next week to make its Siri voice assistant work with a larger variety of apps, as the technology company looks to counter the runaway success of Amazon.com Inc's competing Alexa service.

But the Cupertino, California company is likely to stick to its tested method of focusing on a small amount of features and trying to perfect them, rather than casting as wide a net as possible, according to engineers and artificial intelligence industry insiders.
Expanded third-party app access to Siri is one of the few tidbits we've heard about Apple's plans for iOS 11, which is also expected to feature new design elements and a revamped Apple Music app. Rumors suggest Apple has been working on significant improvements to Siri, so other Siri features could also be included.

Part of the reason behind bolstering Siri's capability is likely Apple's work on a Siri-based smart speaker designed to compete with the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. It's not yet clear what the speaker will be capable of, and it isn't included in today's Reuters report beyond a brief mention, but to be competitive, the speaker will need to interface with third-party apps much like iOS.

Rumors suggest there is a chance Apple plans to introduce the Siri speaker at WWDC to allow developers time to create integrations and features for the device ahead of a fall launch, but whether that will happen remains to be seen.

Apple's Siri and speaker plans will be unveiled on Monday, June 5 at 10:00 a.m., which is when the WWDC keynote event kicks off.

Related Roundups: WWDC 2017, iOS 11, Siri Smart Speaker
Tag: Siri

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Rumored Siri Speaker in Production Ahead of Possible WWDC Debut

Apple's rumored Siri smart speaker, which is designed to compete with the Google Home and Amazon Echo, is already in production ahead of a prospective debut at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, reports Bloomberg.

Citing sources "familiar with the matter," Bloomberg says production has already started on the speaker, but it is not expected to be ready to ship until later in the year. Still, Apple could introduce the speaker at WWDC, which kicks off next Monday.

Despite rumors hinting at a touch screen, and comments from Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller questioning the usefulness of an AI-based speaker product without a screen, the upcoming Siri speaker will not feature a display.

A Siri speaker mockup with a "Mac Pro-like" concave design (Image via iFunnyVlogger)

Instead, Apple will differentiate its speaker from Amazon and Google offerings through deep integration with Apple products and superior sound quality, including virtual surround sound technology. The speaker is said to be louder and "reproduce sound more crisply" than the Home and the Echo, and it could also include sensors for measuring a room's acoustics and adjusting audio levels automatically during use.

As with the Echo and the Home, Apple's speaker will likely support third-party services and apps, allowing it to perform a wide range of tasks. It will also serve as a HomeKit hub.
Introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple's HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple's network of services.
Inventec, the company that manufactures Apple's AirPods, is said to be manufacturing the speaker, which has, as was previously reported, been tested in the homes of Apple employees for several months.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously said there was a greater than 50 percent chance the speaker would be introduced at WWDC, so we may get our first look at the device next week. Rumors have suggested it will feature a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls and a "fat" body covered in speaker mesh.

Along with the Siri speaker, Apple may also introduce new 10.5 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models and new Macs at WWDC.

Related Roundup: Siri Smart Speaker
Tags: HomeKit, Siri, bloomberg.com

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Ming-Chi Kuo Says Apple Likely to Unveil 10.5″ iPad Pro and Touchscreen Siri Smart Speaker at WWDC

Prominent KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a "2017 WWDC highlights" report, outlining his expectations for next month's keynote event. While he expects the typical previews of the next versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS, he also predicts we will see several hardware-related announcements.


One major debut Kuo expects to see is the long-rumored 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which he says has a greater than 70 percent chance of debuting at the event based on the timing of production ramp-up, which he sees as happening at the end of the current quarter. In line with previous rumors, Kuo believes the 10.5-inch iPad Pro will have a similar form factor as the current 9.7-inch model, squeezing in a larger display thanks to narrower bezels.
The newly designed 10.5” iPad Pro will have a similar form factor to the 9.7” model, but will feature a larger display thanks to narrow bezels. The new design should improve the user experience and help gain traction in the corporate/ commercial sectors. We forecast 10.5” iPad shipments of 5.0-6.0mn units in 2017F, accounting for 15% of total 2017F
iPad shipments.
Kuo also reiterates his belief that there is a greater than 50 percent chance Apple will unveil its Siri smart speaker at WWDC. He previously said that the speaker may not actually launch until later in the year, but an announcement at WWDC would give developers time to begin building support for the product.
In our April 28 Insight report (“Apple’s first home AI product to see cyclical shipments of over 10mn units; main competitor is Amazon Echo”), we offered estimates for the new home AI/ Siri speaker line. We also believe this new product will come with a touch panel.
For the first time, Kuo says Apple's speaker will include a touch panel display, a detail that has remained unclear since rumors began. Most previous rumors have made no mention of whether the product will include a display, but Phil Schiller recently suggested such smart speaker products would benefit from the inclusion of a screen.

Apple's WWDC keynote kicks off at 10:00 am Pacific Time on Monday, June 5, and MacRumors will have full coverage of the event as it unfolds.


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Ming-Chi Kuo Says Apple Likely to Unveil 10.5″ iPad Pro and Touchscreen Siri Smart Speaker at WWDC

Prominent KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a "2017 WWDC highlights" report, outlining his expectations for next month's keynote event. While he expects the typical previews of the next versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS, he also predicts we will see several hardware-related announcements.


One major debut Kuo expects to see is the long-rumored 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which he says has a greater than 70 percent chance of debuting at the event based on the timing of production ramp-up, which he sees as happening at the end of the current quarter. In line with previous rumors, Kuo believes the 10.5-inch iPad Pro will have a similar form factor as the current 9.7-inch model, squeezing in a larger display thanks to narrower bezels.
The newly designed 10.5” iPad Pro will have a similar form factor to the 9.7” model, but will feature a larger display thanks to narrow bezels. The new design should improve the user experience and help gain traction in the corporate/ commercial sectors. We forecast 10.5” iPad shipments of 5.0-6.0mn units in 2017F, accounting for 15% of total 2017F
iPad shipments.
Kuo also reiterates his belief that there is a greater than 50 percent chance Apple will unveil its Siri smart speaker at WWDC. He previously said that the speaker may not actually launch until later in the year, but an announcement at WWDC would give developers time to begin building support for the product.
In our April 28 Insight report (“Apple’s first home AI product to see cyclical shipments of over 10mn units; main competitor is Amazon Echo”), we offered estimates for the new home AI/ Siri speaker line. We also believe this new product will come with a touch panel.
For the first time, Kuo says Apple's speaker will include a touch panel display, a detail that has remained unclear since rumors began. Most previous rumors have made no mention of whether the product will include a display, but Phil Schiller recently suggested such smart speaker products would benefit from the inclusion of a screen.

Apple's WWDC keynote kicks off at 10:00 am Pacific Time on Monday, June 5, and MacRumors will have full coverage of the event as it unfolds.


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Jobs Biographer Walter Isaacson: Apple ‘No Longer the Most Innovative Company’

Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs, went on record this week to express his belief that Google and Amazon have overtaken Apple to become the most innovative technology companies of the modern day.

The Aspen Institute CEO and writer of the best-selling biography made the frank remarks in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Alley" show, during which he singled out Apple's lack of movement in the virtual assistant space as an example of where the company had been left behind.

Image via CNBC

"Apple is no longer the most innovative of companies," Isaacson said. "But they are good at execution. The innovation in the virtual assistant space, for example, is coming from Google and Amazon, not Apple."
Isaacson said he was "surprised" that Apple hasn't moved its virtual assistant Siri into the home and claimed that he frequently used both Amazon's Echo speaker and Google Home. "Sometimes I let them compete," he said.

Apple is expected to release a smart speaker with Siri integration soon, possibly as early as next month at WWDC. However, Isaacson thinks it could be too late for the company to catch up in that space, and suggested Apple should at other areas in which to innovate.

"You could have a great company — and Apple is a great company — without having really a next big thing, but it isn't in Apple's DNA to be that way," said Isaacson.

Related Roundup: Siri Smart Speaker

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Apple’s Plans for Upcoming Siri Speaker Remain Unclear in Regard to Display

With Amazon having launched the Echo Show, a new Alexa-enabled smart speaker that comes equipped with a 7-inch screen, Bloomberg has shared a little tidbit on Apple's own speaker plans, making it clear that there's still no concrete information on whether Apple's speaker will include a display.

In a piece outlining Amazon's new speaker, Bloomberg references a comment made recently by Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, where he said that a voice assistant in a device without a screen doesn't "suit many situations."
While marketing chief Phil Schiller recently talked up the benefits of having a screen on a voice-activated device, it's not clear whether the Apple version will in fact have one.
Rumors of Apple's work on some kind of in-home Siri-based smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo first surfaced in early 2016, but while the speaker is said to be close to launching, details remain scant.

The new Amazon Echo Show

We've heard it will feature Siri integration and focus heavily on sound quality, with "excellent acoustics performance" and some form of Beats technology. Design details shared in late April said it would feature a Mac Pro-style concave top with built-in controls and a "fat" body with speaker mesh covering the majority of the device, but no display was mentioned.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said the speaker has a 50 percent chance of debuting at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference coming in June, and as Bloomberg first mentioned in September (and reiterates again today) the speaker is currently being tested within the homes of Apple employees, so it may not be long before we have more concrete details about the device.

Based on today's Bloomberg report, Apple's speaker will have one benefit over the Amazon Echo and Google Home - native Apple Music integration. Amazon devices chief Dave Limp told Bloomberg that while Amazon would "love to have Apple" the company is "not super big" on allowing Apple Music integration.

For more details on Apple's upcoming Siri speaker, make sure to check out our dedicated roundup, which aggregates all of the information we've heard about the device so far. More information about Amazon's Echo Show can be found in our launch article.

Related Roundup: Siri Smart Speaker

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