HomePod: Everything New in iOS 13

Among the densely packed WWDC Keynote on Monday, Craig Federighi sped through the updates coming with iOS 13 this fall. Surprisingly, HomePod was not only given a mention but even received some major, long awaited updates. With iOS 13, HomePod will support multiple users, Apple’s Handoff feature, live radio, and sleep timers.

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Multi-user Support

According to Apple:

“Together with Siri, HomePod can learn and recognize up to six different voices and create a personalized listening experience for everybody at home.”

The new multi-user support via voice recognition gives users the ability to have a more personalized experience with Apple Music streaming, as well as personalized support for personal requests to iMessage, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts.

Under the current iOS, the HomePod is limited to just one iCloud account upon setup, but also allows for any voice to make requests. Any family member can make changes to the iCloud account belonging to the person that happened to setup the device. That means either one of two things: either an entire family shares the same text messages, reminders, calendar events, and Apple Music account - all on one iCloud account, or it means only one member of an entire family can use HomePod to its fullest utility.

Thankfully, iOS 13’s multi-user support will allow up to six users to each make their own personal requests and track their own music interests to Apple Music.

Apple has rightfully taken criticism for the HomePod since its release in February 2018. Multi-user support is considered a must-have feature for any voice assistant device. The Google Home as been able to recognize up to six voices since April 2017, quickly followed by the Amazon Echo in October 2017. With this iOS 13 update alone, the HomePod will finally meet the minimum viable threshold of a household voice assistant.

Handoff

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“Whether you’re halfway through a call or listening to a song or podcast on your iPhone, you can easily hand it off to HomePod. Just hold your iOS device next to HomePod and whatever you’re listening to will continue to play seamlessly on HomePod.”

Handoff is currently known for its ability to maintain instances of apps between iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. For example, while using Safari on iPhone, opening your MacBook will display a tab next to the dock that opens the same instance of Safari from your iPhone, onto your MacBook.

Similarly, HomePod’s new Handoff feature will allow users to handoff any audio from their iPhone to their HomePod, simply by holding it close to the device.

Live Radio

iOS 13 will give HomePod the ability to tune into live radio stations. Through integrations with iHeartRadio, radio.com, and TuneIn, HomePod will have access to over 100,000 live radio stations.

Sleep Timers

Topping-off the collection of new features coming in the fall, users will have the ability to set sleep timers for whatever is playing on HomePod. After the specified amount of time, the audio will automatically cease playback.


HomePod’s iOS 13 updates are all extremely exciting, despite their general simplicity. It’s apparent that Apple doesn’t plan on giving HomePod major updates on a consistent schedule - and that’s fine. It is, however, pleasant to see Apple provide the basic features being asked for by the community. Historically, Apple has a tendency to ignore the simplest of features in their products whilst pursuing the big and bold ones. This fall, Apple is giving HomePod both bold updates such as Multi-user support and Handoff, as well as simple features like radio and sleep timers. I look forward to making my HomePod a more reliably used device in my home.


Follow Doug Davis on Twitter @thedougdavis and get blog updates @autonomous_blog.

The WWDC Smart Home Roundup

Apple’s 2019 WWDC Keynote announced an overwhelming amount of new hardware and software updates, and among those are several features designed to produce a better functioning smart home. I’ve gathered an isolated list of updates to our home technology. Check back here at The Autonomous for detailed analyses of some of these updates.

HomePod Multi-user Support

Multiple family members will be able to use voice recognition to make personal requests to Siri on the HomePod. This includes personal requests to Notes, Reminders, Calendar, and Apple Music.

Apple TV Multi-user Support

Like HomePod, multiple family members will be able to see personalized video recommendations within the Apple TV app and Apple Music.

Expanded Apple TV Controller Support

The Apple TV will expand its controller support to both the Xbox One S and Playstation’s Dualshock 4 controllers.

Secure Router Integration with HomeKit

Wifi routers will be able to integrate with Apple to establish a firewall specifically to keep HomeKit accessories from accessing the entirety of the home network. Current integrated brands include Eero, Linksys, and Spectrum.

Secure Video Capturing with HomeKit

Select home security brands (currently Logitech, Netatmo, and Arlo) will integrate with Apple to allow secure video processing on the home-network, before encrypting and saving to iCloud for 10 days.

AirPod Audio Sharing

With AirPods, users will be able to easily share audio - like music or podcasts - with a friends’ AirPods to simultaneously listen.

Suggested Shortcuts

The Shortcuts app is being updated with automated Shortcut suggestions. These suggestions will be custom designed based on actions taken on a regular basis by the user on their iPhone.


Follow Doug Davis on Twitter @thedougdavis and get blog updates @autonomous_blog.

Read Together #4: Alice Isn't Dead

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Erika is grossed-out, Doug doesn't suspend his disbelief, and we both have a moral obligation to display the following text: There are no End Game spoilers in this podcast.

In this month’s episode of Read Together, Erika and I talk about Remade by Danielle Novotny before discussing what it means to be emotionally captured by a story with Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink.

Available on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Spotify Premium Hits 100 Million Subscribers

As part of their Q1 2019 earnings report, Spotify announced its user growth to 100 million paying subscribers - about 50% of all Spotify subscribers (premium and free). This past January, Apple announced its user growth to 50 million paying subscribers.

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Spotify claims that a large portion of its new Premium subscribers is a result of its aggressive promotions, stating:

“Outperformance was driven by a better than plan promotion in the US and Canada and continued strong growth in Family Plan. We also saw strong growth from the expansion of our Google Home Mini promotion, as well as the price reduction to our Spotify Premium + Hulu offering in the US.”

As an Apple Music subscriber, I can only hope that this report will encourage Apple to introduce a services bundle for Apple Music, as well as its many upcoming services. Spotify’s double subscriber rate compared to Apple Music has shown how essential promotional deals and services bundles are to continued growth in music subscription services.

Music streaming is bland and non-unique. Aside from app UI, both Spotify and Apple Music offer essentially the same content at the same price. Any multi-billion dollar company can license music and sell a streaming subscription. So for Apple and Spotify, the question is how to win-over consumers to your brand as opposed to the alternative. That answer is television. Spotify’s offering of Hulu for no additional charge makes their brand literally more valuable than Apple Music’s offerings, despite both services being $10/month. Give ten dollars to Apple and you get music. Give that same ten dollars to Spotify and you get that same music plus a Hulu subscription. Luckily, Apple’s own video streaming service, Apple TV+, is coming this fall - hopefully in a bundle.

If Spotify and Apple Music both offer a bundled service of music and TV, the “identical service” issue will be gone. While they’d continue to offer generally an identical music service, they can differentiate their brand with the content of their video services. It’s here where Apple has the upper-hand. Apple is in complete control of its video offerings, while Spotify is simply partnering with an entirely different entity.

In the near future, I hope to choose my music subscription based on the bundled video service that best suits my interests. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple never comes close to bundling its multitude of services.


Follow Doug Davis on Twitter @thedougdavis and get blog updates @autonomous_blog.

'Mario Kart Tour' Enters Closed Beta

Nintendo’s next game for mobile devices has finally entered its beta phase. Mario Kart Tour - of which no gameplay previews have been released - has finally seen some movement today ahead of its “Summer 2019” release date.

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The beta program for Mario Kart Tour is being restricted to Android devices. Users can apply to be entered into the closed beta on the Mario Kart Tour website between now and May 7th. Mario Kart Tour will be the third mobile game publication by Nintendo, following Super Mario Run in 2016 and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp in 2017.

While the beta program is only available to Android users, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Mario Kart Tour officially announce a release date at Apple’s WWDC in June. The beta program ends on June 4th - one day after the WWDC main Keynote on June 3rd. It also wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo goes on stage at an Apple event. Back in 2016, Miyamoto himself announced the release of Super Mario Run as part of Apple’s annual “iPhone Event”.

The mobile games market is changing rapidly year over year with the help of Nintendo’s investment into the industry, along with other programs like Apple Arcade coming this fall. The platform is rapidly changing from a microtransaction-infested, pay-to-win garbage can, and into a legitimized space for casual gaming - right in everyone’s pocket.


Follow Doug Davis on Twitter @thedougdavis and get blog updates @autonomous_blog.