back to article Wowee, it's Samsung's next me-too AI gizmo: The Apple HomePod

Apple has joined Amazon, Google, and Microsoft in the race to plant microphones in people's homes. (Presumably, Samsung is only just around the corner with something similar, too.) At its annual developer conference in San Jose, California, on Monday, Apple promised its personal assistant software Siri a second home (or third …

  1. Grunchy

    Ohmigosh I am such a marketing sucker

    A couple years ago I finally responded to the marketing suggestion that had been implanted into my psyche and I bought a Bose Wave radio, first gen, $50 off Fleabay.

    I AM SUCH A LOSER ARRRRGHHHHHHHHHH.

    I mean, it has nice bass response, but the reception kinda sucks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ohmigosh I am such a marketing sucker

      bought a Bose Wave radio.......I mean, it has nice bass response, but the reception kinda sucks.

      You've just summed up Bose....lots of bass but the rest kinda sucks.

      1. Monty Cantsin

        Re: Ohmigosh I am such a marketing sucker

        "You've just summed up Bose....lots of bass but the rest kinda sucks."

        Huh? Lots of bass? I thought the standard Bose bashing line was "No highs, no lows, must be Bose!"

        (fwiw, I really like my QC35s)

        1. Jay 2

          Re: Ohmigosh I am such a marketing sucker

          For my sins I do have a few bits of Bose kit, all of which I quite like. The Wave CD is still going strong after 18 years, though to be honest it's only used as a glorified alarm clock nowdays. Though I've recently attached my old AirPort Express to it so that it can do a bit more.

          Though a few years back I did try some of their new (at the time) in-ear cans, but to be honest compared to my UE with custom tips they weren't very good.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Overcharged Aussie

    Second Home?

    Siri's second home?

    Someone has forgotten that Apple stuck Siri in MacOS Sierra.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Second Home?

      But no one used it {tumbleweed blowing in the wind} because like on iPads/iPhones, it sucks.

      So unless they have really sorted it out it will be another half hearted attempt by apple to stave off the inevitable quotes from the naysayers.

      Apple is Doomed.

      1. Rik Myslewski

        Re: Second Home?

        "Apple is Doomed."

        I've been following Apple since the early 80s, and if I had a buck for every time I read some buffoon saying, "Apple is doomed," well, I might be able to afford one of those iMac Pros announced today.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Second Home?

          we hear the same year after year about MS. Yet the billions still keep rolling in...

      2. robin thakur 1

        Re: Second Home?

        I beg to differ, when controlling stuff via Homekit (and the Homebridge I've installed on Raspberry Pi to bridge devices which do not offer Homekit compatibility such as Nest and Logitech's awfully supported devices) Siri understands me 99.9% of the time and I can control it via Watch or iOS. By contrast Alexa understands me only some of the time and isn't as responsive or accurate.

        Nothing is more annoying than saying "Alexa turn on the master Bedroom Lights to 50% brightness" and it waiting 5 seconds before saying "I couldn't find a group or devices called turn on the masterbedroomlights in your account" or "Philips Hue isn't responding right now"

        However, when I ask Siri to do it, it works first time, every time (most of the time) plus I can tell it to change the colour to anything and it will just do it with panache. Echo by contrast just won't do that properly unless you save the colours as a scene, then resync, then chant while the planets are in alignment, then repeat until it sometimes works.

  4. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Yawn.

    I'm not a fan of things Apple - somehow the way I like to do things is diametrically opposed to the ways that Apple demands they be done. Still, I am truly phenomenally underwhelmed (if that's a word) that Apple's big new product reveal is a SPEAKER.

    1. Random Handle

      Re: Yawn.

      >I am truly phenomenally underwhelmed (if that's a word) that Apple's big new product reveal is a SPEAKER.

      Think the big new reveal was the iMac Pro with an 18-core Xeon CPU - presumably followed in the New Year by the silent death of the Trashintosh.

  5. DCFusor Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Obviously, the author

    isn't an Apple fanboi! Hairball gray! Thanks for the best laugh today, as the rest of humanity has evidently gone completely nuts.

  6. Jim84

    Telescreens

    Lets just install them in every house where they can see every corner and get this over with.

  7. Kaltern

    I think Apple missed a trick here. They could have called it iEye and shaped it as...well I think you get the idea.

    1. GrumpyKiwi
      Joke

      Shaped it as... a sailor experiencing the hunt for the golden rivet for the first time?

    2. Danny 4
      Big Brother

      They could have called it iEye ...

      iSpy, perhaps?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The iBall surely.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #YAWN. I don't have the Google or Amazon thingies like this and won't be buying this one either. #PASS.

  9. Geoff (inMelbourne)

    Mono?

    why are all of these new speaker products mono? Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft. Even Sonos is a one-speaker solution (in the default configuration).

    Has the world forgotten stereo? Why does Apple position this as a premium HiFi device and then make it mono?

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Mono?

      The presentation implied that if you have two of them on a table you get stereo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mono?

        Wahoo £700 for a pair of shit speakers.

        1. Tim99 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Mono?

          Yes, I'm a biased onetime Linn/Naim Flat Earther - All modern digital speakers sound pretty ordinary to me, but now I'm an old fart with crap hearing it doesn't matter much..

    2. David Paul Morgan

      Re: Mono?

      doesn't matter for google home.

      you just say "hey google, play bbc radio 4 on lounge" and the sound goes through my sound bar,

      or "... on Kitchen" to play on the kitchen stereo brick

      These things work better as part of their own eco-system.

      For listening to radio in the morning "hey google, play planet rock radio (on itself)" the sound is fine when pottering about.

      Presumable, the Apple device will not play well with others?

      Now, is there such a combination chromecast led speaker light bulb..?

    3. joejack

      Re: Mono?

      I think Google's excuse is, they want you to pay extra for ChromeCast Audio dongles on all of your audio equipment, and you can then use the Home to send music to one or more of these.

      I swapped out my $20 bluetooth audio converter in the kitchen for a $50 Echo Dot. Sounds fine on its own, but way better plugged into stereo speakers. Hell of a lot cheaper (and more open and versatile) than a $350 Siri. WTF Apple.

  10. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    Why the Paranoia Without Verification of a Threat?

    "Staking out a position on Apple's oft-visited privacy high ground, Schiller offered reassurance that the HomePod doesn't record anything until the user addresses Siri."

    We know Siri accesses Apple servers on the Internet in order to access expert system databases for answers to questions. But why the paranoia that anything at all is stored on the HomePod or Apple servers? Why not wait for a security evaluation from Apple and third parties?

    I for one have never welcomed our citizen surveillance overlords. That's one reason I've stuck with Apple. Until such time as we know Apple has fumbled the privacy ball with the HomePod, let's expect Apple's highest standards of user privacy to continue and prevail. IOW: We shall see...

    1. Alistair Silver badge

      Re: Why the Paranoia Without Verification of a Threat?

      @DerekC.

      Not sure if comment or icon is more accurate. Hopefully the icon, otherwise go work for a telecoms provider in the call data records management department.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Why the Paranoia Without Verification of a Threat?

      Apple has plenty of incentive to maintain that privacy - it is one of their unique selling points that Google and Amazon can't match due to their business models.

      I think home 'assistants' are just a gimmick at this point, but if they ever moved past that stage and I wanted one, Apple's the only one of the (current) three I'd consider because of this. Even if Google's offered more functionality I'd NEVER consider it.

      1. paulf Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Why the Paranoia Without Verification of a Threat?

        @ DerekCurrie "I for one have never welcomed our citizen surveillance overlords. That's one reason I've stuck with Apple."

        @ DougS "Apple has plenty of incentive to maintain that privacy - it is one of their unique selling points that Google and Amazon can't match due to their business models."

        I agree with you both on this - privacy is a key selling point for Apple that Google (definitely) and Amazon cannot match, demonstrated most clearly by the granular privacy settings on the iPhone compared to the all or nothing approach in Android.

        My background concern is that Apple go rogue on privacy at some point in the future after the much predicted peak Apple occurs and things start drifting downwards to the point Cook either starts looking at how to make more money from what they have or Cook gets booted out and his replacement does the same. That's the point all that data Apple have starts looking very vulnerable and valuable.

  11. IHateWearingATie

    Apart from being connected to Apple music, this seems to be a real me-too product that really doesn't do anything more than the Echo can.

    Maybe the sound quality is a little better (not that i would be able to tell though). But that's it? Pretty poor effort from apple.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Other than the fact it isn't a bug sitting 24x7 in your home like Echo and Alexa. Some people consider their privacy worth something. Maybe you think "well I'm not a criminal so I'm not worried that the cops could subpeona what I've said in front of my Alexa", but most of us aren't naive enough to fall for that line of reasoning. Dunno if Google will respond to subpeonas for the Echo, but they're the last company in the world you should want to have even MORE personal information on you!

      I wouldn't put an Echo or Alexa in my home if they were free - hell, not even if you paid me! I don't see a need for any assistant so I won't be getting Apple's either, but if I wanted one someday, they're the only one I'd consider - and I'd choose it even if it did less than the competition. Because part of the "less" it would be doing is not spying on me.

  12. PipV

    'I can't play that for you Dave'

    Looks like HAL from above.

    £350 (Dollar to Sterling conversion) for a quality speaker is fair enough, but what was beyond belief was when the Apple geeza / SalesBloke said 'wait till you here 2 side by side.

    OMG - Apple have JUST INVENTED stereo

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'I can't play that for you Dave'

      and soon the patent will follow.

  13. ratfox Silver badge

    I don't get how for so many years we were sold Hi-Fi stereo installations with expensive amplifiers and bass subwoofers, and suddenly we're told that a single speaker is fine. What changed?

    1. TheWeenie

      This isn't Hi-Fi.

      Loads has changed. I guess the way we are all trained to "consume" everything (including music) these days - by paying a monthly fee to rent access as opposed to buying everything up-front means people are spending less on the high-end audio kit than they used to. I'm no audiophile, but I know a few people who are. One is a vinyl purist, one a CD-man. Both have drool-worthy systems where the individual components cost more than my car. Both have extensive, well-stocked libraries of music on their chosen media and entire rooms dedicated to the listening pleasure.

      I neither have the budget nor the space nor the spousal-approval for that, so we have a couple of Sonos units in the house. the Play:1 are mono but for generic background-noise streamed-MP3 music they do the job really well. Or you can buy two of them for a stereo effect (I'm not sure if it's genuine stereo or emulated). Ultimately though, if you want a mind-blowing experience, you can find very high quality digital sources that stream lossless CODECs and output CD-quality bitstreams into your expensive home audio system of choice for when you can't be bothered to go find that original pressing of Dark Side Of The Moon.

      TL;DR - You get what you pay for!

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        You get what you pay for!

        The thing is, if you don't have the budget for a Sonos or an iHome or whatever, then you can get cracking good sound by going down the traditional route. For example, pop down to Richer Sounds and pick up a Cambridge AM1 amplifier for £99, and a pair of bookshelf speakers for £59 or £99 (I really like the Control-1s) then head off to CPC and plug in your phone for 72p, or do it wirelessly for £27.

        For around £200 you will get a system that sounds every bit as good in a typical living room as some of these fancy ones (and in stereo to boot) and by using your phone you also get most of the whizz-bang technological niceties, if you like that sort of thing.

        Or just plug in a music source of your own choosing. Put the system next to the TV you bought without thinking about the fact that it has pathetic little loudspeakers, and marvel at the difference a properly-designed 4" speaker makes. My 85 year-old dad - who has appalling hearing - really notices the difference between the TV's inbuilt speakers and the cheap pair of Wharfedales I bought him, and didn't half moan when I'd been fiddling and he had to use the TV's speakers for a few days.

        Richer Sounds isn't quite what it used to be, but as they used to say, "real HiFi doesn't have to be expensive".

        M.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      hi fi is dead

      Few people spend much time listening to music compared to the 70s/80s/90s when those "hi fi" systems were being sold. Oh, they play a lot of music, but they are doing other things - the music is just background noise. I can't remember the last time I just sat down and listened to music - where that was the only thing I was doing. When I was a teenager and in college I did that a lot, but there were no smartphones back then...

      Who is going to spend a lot of money on top quality audio for background noise?

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: hi fi is dead

        Who is going to spend a lot of money on top quality audio for background noise?

        Not sure if you are replying to my post about "traditional" HiFi, but in case you are, £200 isn't a lot compared with these devices and does make a difference. The AM1 and Control-1s I use in the kitchen for background audio are a lot easier to listen to than the speakers in the kitchen TV or the radio when I'm clattering about. Then again, I do listen more to Radio 4, which means that even if it's "background" I do like to be able to hear what's being said.

        M.

  14. Cheesenough
    Meh

    It's not very shiny - is it?

    I would have expected a new geegaw from Apple to exude the cool, sleek, shiny design ethos - but that looks like its covered in the sort of netting laundry tablet bags are made of.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: It's not very shiny - is it?

      Don't worry, I'm sure there's a rose gold version on the refresh schedule but perhaps only on the 'S' or 'Plus' or 'S Plus' or...

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: It's not very shiny - is it?

      They don't want it to stand out, they want it to blend in and be invisible.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How the world changes

    It strikes me as odd that when I was growing up, we all lusted after the best HiFi we could get, and that meant the best sound quality - when I finally reached the heights of a Linn/Naim system, it truly sounded magnificent, and continues to do so.

    We all lusted after the best TV picture we could get, and that meant at the time, the largest Trinitron, then the best and largest Pioneer Plasma, then the best, highest resolution and largest LCD panel. Now we have OLED incoming, and ultra high resolution panels. We just need the programming to go with it.

    But now: everyone listens to stuff on crappy compact speakers or even phone speakers, watches things on iPads and iPhones, and any pretence of quality and natural sound is deemed unwelcome. If in doubt, just add more bass. So the HomePod, rather than provide a simple signal path through high quality components, doing as little as possible to add distortion, deliberately showcases how much processing is done to your music. Given its size, and price, it just can't sound as good as a full sized speaker system, surely.

    Oh well, I'll stop ranting. We might be getting out of touch, but at least my generation has houses, jobs and pensions.

    1. TheWeenie

      Re: How the world changes

      People used to lust after and dream about having the very best that was on offer. Technology has been effectively commoditised now though and the law of diminishing returns is as prevalent as it has ever been. Why spend thousands on an expensive, high-end home audio system that could require saving and investment and learning when you could just spend £200 and get something that's "good enough"?

      It's the same with a lot of products - you can spend £500 on an LG panel from Currys and it'll be - for the average person - good enough.

      Nowadays people care more about having the right logo on a piece of hardware than they do about the functionality of the underlying technology. Mind you, I guess that's not exactly new.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: How the world changes

      Not everyone cared about HiFi then, just as they don't now. To some extent you have to train yourself to hear the difference. Though obviously some speakers are so awful anyone can tell.

      But having done sound for live events, it was amazing how many mistakes you could get away with making where almost nobody would notice - except the other people who've done sound before.

      My little £250 Denon CD player and bookshelf speakers system from John Lewis makes an absolutely lovely sound. Sure I could get better, but I'd have to spend much much more money. And I don't think it's worth it. It's like the difference between a good £10 bottle of wine and a really nice £30 bottle. You might be able to taste it, but the more you spend, the harder it gets. And as with the wine, I doubt many people could tell.

      Then you get people buying the Sonos speakers, which sound OK and are easy to set up and give you lots of options (if you buy enough of the buggers).

      Also I don't know many people who just sit down and listen to music while doing nothing else. In fact I can only think of 4 (and one of those is me). At which point, music is part of the background of your life - and the quality probably becomes less important.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How the world changes

        To some extent you have to train yourself to hear the difference.

        Here I have to respectfully disagree with you. I reckon pretty much everyone who can hear can tell the difference between a £200 and a £2,000 and a £20,000 Hi-Fi, in the same way that everyone can tell the difference between a Mini and a Bugatti. I understand the law of diminishing returns, but many people I meet seriously undersell themselves when it comes to their ability to judge quality. A shame.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: How the world changes

          You can get a reasonable system for £200. You can also get something totally awful. If the volume isn't turned up to distortion level, I wonder how many people could actually tell the quality difference in a blind test.

          Between a £2k and £20k Hi-Fi, I suspect some audophiles might not be able to tell if they were tested blind - and would then be very annoyed about it.

          This is a bit like the Pepsi challenge. More people preferred Pepsi when tasting blind, but more people preferred Coke when they knew what they were getting. The power of marketing winning out over what isn't that huge a difference in taste.

          But let me give you a concrete example. I set my Mum's first digital telly up for her. It was widescreen when many terrestrial shows were still in 4:3. She had a Sky box, and so I got that to manage the picture, and not the telly - which did an awful job. They got out of synch somehow.

          So she's watching some soap or other when I go round. The Sky box was stretching the 4:3 into widescreen and making it all fat looking, but the telly had then converted it back into 4:3 - but was also in some weird zoom mode - which meant that the picture had been stretched, squashed to a different size, then zoomed - but had black bars on both sides and top and bottom. It looked truly horrible and very weird. I asked Mum how long the telly had been going wrong like this, and why hadn't she asked me to fix it, and she said, "like what?"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How the world changes

            Your misappropriation of the Pepsi Challenge result for your own needs is nothing short of scandalous!!

            Pepsi won the challenge because when you have just a sip, it does taste better, however, as coke found out when they released 'New Coke', when it comes to drinking a whole can of the stuff Coke is the hands down winner.

            Interestingly, from personal observation since this happened, I notice pepsi drinkers finish their can far less often than coke drinkers do...

  16. fruitoftheloon
    WTF?

    Right...

    Well horses for courses, BUT I have never used Siri on my MBP, seems like a half-arsed idea if ever I heard one.

    And this 'speaker' will sound SHITE, in our kitchen we have £200 of Tibo Plus 3, I recently used them for PA purposes in our village hall - I was surprised how well they worked, and they sound frikkin amazing for the money (and modest size).

    Fools and their money...

    Jay

  17. bartsmit

    Samsung has been listening through their TV's for a wee while now https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31296188

  18. Pat Harkin
    Gimp

    " While it's significantly more expensive than Google Home ($130) or Amazon Echo ($180), the HomePod compares favorably to competing speakers like the Sonos 5 ($500) and perhaps to the Cortana-infused Harman Kardon speaker, which has yet to disclose a price."

    The Sonos Play 1 & Play 3 are considerably cheaper than the 5 and would be a fairer comparison. If any of the Sonos range could be compared - none of them have voice input.

    Your article says, in essence ""It's more expensive than anything comparable on the market but let's try to hide that".

    1. le_gazman

      Play 5 has voice input, they just haven't enabled it yet.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    advertisers will be happier

    these always on telescreen microphones will certainly be listening for steganographic content sent by tv/radio/internet blipverts/adverts.

    http://christian.wressnegger.info/content/projects/sidechannels/2017-eurosp.pdf

  20. Chz

    Interestingly, the Apple speaker is full of Harman tech. Just like the Cortana device. And who owns Harman these days? Oh lookee - it's Samsung!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it worth the money!?

    Im not sure it is with only because its trying to compete with Sonos as well!

    Found this which has an interesting view on it.

    http://www.makemyhomesmart.co.uk/apple-homepod-worth-money/

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