In a newly-published interview, former Apple sound designer Jim Reekes discusses the history of the sound cues he created for the company’s devices, such as the famous Mac "beep" and startup chords, and the camera shutter used on devices like the iPhone. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Today during a speech to military members in San Diego, President Trump proposed the idea of creating an entirely new branch of the US military specifically geared toward war efforts in space. He dubbed this theoretical new branch the “Space Force,” noting that such a new agency could become reality soon.
The problem is Trump’s administration actively opposed the idea of a Space Force last year. In June, the House Armed Services Committee drafted legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act that would create a “Space Corps” within the US Air Force.
The Air Force didn’t want it and even the White House objected to the idea at the time, saying it would create more bureaucracy. “I oppose the creation of a new military service and…
There’s little worse than going to pick up your phone when you need it, only to find out that it’s not charged. And even when we’re making our best efforts to keep our batteries topped-up, all it takes is a loose cable, or someone accidentally unplugging a power strip, for those good intentions to go to waste. Thankfully, Android P is introducing a new audio confirmation to give you a little peace of mind that your phone is charging as intended.
Based on the early reviews, Apple’s HomePod sounds amazing. It’s so good according to some that it rivals audio equipment priced nearly three times the $ 349 you’ll pay Apple for a HomePod. And in my testing, I agree: Apple has engineered an excellent sonic experience from a single unit. Plus the microphones are nearly flawless at hearing your voice commands regardless of how loud you’re playing music.
Is the speaker worth $ 349 when you can spend a similar amount on other smart speakers? That’s a difficult question to answer for a few reasons. Generally speaking, if you’re all in on iOS and Apple Music, plus you don’t mind waiting for Siri to get smarter, you’ll be happy with a HomePod. I qualify on the first part of that equation, but not the second. And to be honest, I’m not sure the HomePod sounds that much better than some other speakers that have more smarts.
By that I mean most of the “smarts” in the HomePod are in the sound experience. The device automatically configures itself for optimal sound when you first set it up. And HomePod repeats that algorithmic optimization whenever you move it. That’s smart. Does it really solve a problem though?
Yes, the intelligent configuration is impressive. It’s also easier than the process used on my Sonos One speakers: The Trueplay Tuning requires you to walk around your room as the Sonos app listens to tones from the speakers. This manual effort takes about a minute and, just like the HomePod setup process, it only works on Apple iOS devices.
Here’s the thing though: How often do you physically move speakers that plug into an outlet? Not that often, if at all after the initial setup. While Apple has made this process “magical”, it’s not something you do daily. HomePod will also dynamically adjust music in real time too, although I haven’t heard much of a difference with this feature.
Additionally, I did a bit of a blind listening test with my family and one of my tech-savvy friends, mainly because I didn’t really prefer the HomePod audio over a pair of Sonos One speakers in most cases. That may seem like an unfair comparison because the HomePod is a single unit, while a pair of speakers are obviously two units. So why the comparison from an audio standpoint? Because both setups cost the same: Sonos dropped the price of a Sonos One pair to $ 349 for a limited time.
I set up the listening tests using the same songs in various genres directly from Apple Music and at the same sound levels. More often than not, the Sonos Ones were the preferred option. Note that I’m not saying the Sonos “won” for a specific reason. While the HomePod may technically be the better device for accurate sound reproduction, it’s more important which speakers deliver the sound the listeners prefer. It’s subjective based on taste and hearing capabilities. David Pogue performed a similar blind test on video and nobody chose the HomePod as the overall winner either, further illustrating this subjectiveness.
To my ears, the HomePod is better in the lower, bass frequencies and is impressively good at bouncing sound off walls with its seven tweeters to create an immersive stage. One HomePod is surely better than one Sonos One. Add a second Sonos One though, and the stereo separation is clear, plus the mid-range and high frequencies are more nuanced to me. Again, this is subjective to my ears; I recommend testing any speaker with your preferred music genres.
Unfortunately, most of the “smarts” end there for HomePod and for that you can blame Siri. The best way I can put it is: Siri is fragmented between iOS devices and HomePod. You’d think everything Siri can do on an iPhone or iPad could be done on the HomePod. It’s not even close.
Sure, the HomePod has the basics. Obviously, Siri is super for voice control of specific music or for suggesting playback based on an activity. As I’m writing this review, I asked Siri to “play music for studying” and she was up to the task: I have some easy listening and acoustic hits playing. She knows the weather, the time, can set reminders, and can tell when my soccer team (technically, my English football club) plays next. And of course, she can control any HomeKit device in the home. This all works great.
Want to know your next Calendar appointment or want to create one? Nope. Need to set two timers with Siri? Sorry, she can only handle one at a time. Oh, and although HomePod works for speakerphone calls initiated from your phone, you can’t start a call from HomePod.
Perhaps the most baffling omission though is in regards to HomeKit. In the iOS Home app you can create routines to group different HomeKit devices together and make them do things with a single Siri command. HomePod appears as a device in the Home app but you can’t include the speaker in a routine. I do this with my Google Home by telling it I want Relaxation Mode and it turns the lights on at 25% in my office while also firing up an acoustic playlist on the Sonos One. That can’t be replicated on HomePod, at least not yet.
Apple says that more features such as multi-room audio and stereo pairing of HomePods is coming later this year. I suspect Siri will be improved as well for things like calendar access and the ability to recognize multiple users. The latter is another big omission for me because HomePod is tied to a single iCloud account, meaning even if the calendar features were available, they would only work with my calendar account. My family would be out of luck, unless of course each person had their own HomePod. (That’s not happening.)
Circling back to the beginning, I do think iOS users with Apple Music and HomeKit devices will be thrilled with the sound and home control of HomePod, provided they can wait for Apple to address some of the gaps in Siri’s smarts. Just remember that HomePod only works with Apple Music (for now) and that it doesn’t work at all with Android phones even though it has a Bluetooth 5 radio inside and there’s an Android version of Apple Music. I wouldn’t be surprised if HomePod stays iOS only for a long time, or for good. So you’d better be sure you won’t switch away from iOS if buying a HomePod.
For me (and my ears), a pair of Sonos One speakers sounds very comparable to HomePod at the same price. They also work with dozens of streaming music services and have the more capable Alexa built in now with Google Assistant coming later this year. My HomePod was purchased out of pocket with our site reimbursing me; if I was spending my own money, I’d pass on HomePod for now with a wait-and-see attitude as Apple improves the smarts of its smart speaker.
We’ll keep using the HomePod over time to assess new features and functions as they become available. In the meantime, comment below or call in on our IoT Podcast Listener Hotline at 512-623-7424 if you have HomePod questions.
There are boatloads of smart speakers out there, but nothing quite like HomePod. Like many Apple products that came before it, HomePod is here to revolutionize an industry. It’s certainly not first to market, but Cupertino’s plan is to make all HomePod competitors insignificant. The new Apple smart speaker uses cutting-edge technology that delivers outstanding […]
Apple released its much-hyped HomePod speaker to the masses last week, and the general consensus among early reviews is that it sounds superb for a relatively small device. But most of those reviews seem to have avoided making precise measurements of the HomePod’s audio output, instead relying on personal experience to give generalized impressions.
That’s not a total disaster: a general rule for speaker testing is that while it’s good to stamp out any outside factor that may cause a skewed result, making definitive, “objective” claims is difficult. A speaker’s sound largely depends on the room in which it’s placed. Its proximity to walls, the surface on which it’s rested, whether or not you have a carpet—all of this can alter what sounds make it to your ears and thus how you perceive its performance. And no two people’s rooms are entirely alike.
But having some proper measurements is important. Reddit user WinterCharm, whose real name is Fouzan Alam, has made just that in a truly massive review for the site’s “r/audiophile” sub. And if his results are to be believed, those early reviews may be underselling the HomePod’s sonic abilities. After a series of tests with a calibrated microphone in an untreated room, Alam found the HomePod to sound better than the KEF X300A, a generally well-regarded bookshelf speaker that retails for $ 999.
Snapchat finally came through with a winning quarter when it posted Q4 earnings. Boosted by a bigger-than-expected jump in daily users, Snap surpassed Wall Street’s expectations, sending the stock up almost 25 percent. It’s a major victory for Snap, which had a rough first year as a public company. Snap paid its publisher partners — including ESPN, Bleacher Report and People magazine — more than $ 100 million last year, up from $ 58 million in 2016. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]
The U.S. stock market closed up 2.33 percent, prompting some Wall Street analysts to declare that the big two-day sell-off had created a buying opportunity. One big issue: valuation. Companies in the S. & P. 500 are trading at about 25 times what they earned over the past 12 months. And things could be wild today. Meanwhile, Netflix, Amazon, Tesla, Facebook and Google are all performing better than the Dow or the S&P 500 for the year. [John Cassidy / The New Yorker]
Travis Kalanick made his first public appearance since resigning as CEO of Uber last June. Taking the witness stand — the second day of the trial between Uber and Alphabet over self-driving trade secrets — an uncharacteristically soft-spoken Kalanick answered questions about his aggressive ambitions to win the self-driving car race. An attorney for Alphabet said Kalanick “made a decision that winning was more important than obeying the law.” [Johana Bhuiyan / Recode]
ESPN is finally launching ESPN Plus, the $ 5-a-month digital-only subscription service it started talking about in the summer of 2016. But it won’t replace ESPN — the app won’t carry NFL and NBA games, big-time college football or any other top-tier sports stuff you can see on any of ESPN’s cable channels, which still requires a subscription. Meanwhile, as Disney reported mixed Q1 results ,CEO Bob Iger noted that “Black Panther” ticket presales are “outpacing [those of] every other superhero movie ever made.” [Peter Kafka / Recode]
On-demand delivery services like Seamless and Uber Eats may seem like a boon to restaurants, but the apps may be inadvertently killing them. Delivery transactions made up about 7 per cent of total U.S. restaurant sales in 2016; that number is headed toward 40 percent per cent of all restaurant sales. At New York restaurant Mulberry & Vine, for instance, between 20 percent and 40 percent of the revenue goes to third-party platforms and couriers — as delivery demand increases, profitability decreases. [Elizabeth Dunn / The New Yorker]
Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in response to sexual harassment allegations spanning decades. [Maggie Astor / The New York Times]
As a home audio device, Apple’s HomePod is a hit with critics, who have lauded the $ 349 accessory’s superior sound quality. But the standalone speaker has not addressed the shortcomings of Siri, an area where HomePod lagged behind the capabilities of competitors Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. AppleInsider – Frontpage News