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.

HomePod Gets a Price Decrease

Today Apple lowered the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299. It’s been clear from the start that the HomePod was way overvalued by Apple, considering its boost in sales whenever a 3rd party retailer lowers the price to $249 around the holidays.

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The HomePod isn’t the best smart speaker on the market despite being the most expensive. Google Home and the Amazon Echo severely outpace the HomePod’s capabilities as a smart assistant and at a fraction of the price. That being said, the HomePod is a perfectly good smart speaker for those already ingrained within the Apple ecosystem. If you want voice control over HomeKit, Apple Music, and Podcasts and want it all with phenomenal sound, then the HomePod is perfect.

I believe the HomePod is worth exactly $249 - all capabilities considered. That being said, if I think it’s worth $249, then it’s no question that Apple would value it at a $50 premium.


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

HomePod Holds Just 4% of Market Share

Joe Rossignol at MacRumors wrote:

HomePod shipments totaled 1.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 45 percent increase on a year-over-year basis, according to Strategy Analytics. Despite the growth, the research firm estimates that Apple's share of the worldwide smart speaker market was just 4.1 percent during the quarter. 

It’s really no surprise to me that Apple holds such a small portion of the total market share on smart speakers. Much like the rest of Apple’s product-line, the HomePod is expensive. The HomePod is not for everyday consumers and it’s clear that Apple had no intention of claiming that broader smart speaker market.

For the past several years, Apple has been constructing a walled-off garden of a device ecosystem. Within this garden, all of its devices (ideally) work smoothly in conjunction with one another. Some consumers might accidentally find themselves in this walled-off ecosystem, but I’d bet that the vast majority of them intentionally push into it. The HomePod is for those particular consumers that find themselves deep within the Apple ecosystem. Why buy a $50 Google Home Mini when a $350 HomePod could be fully integrated - without hassle - into the rest of your already existing device network? Sure, its a horrifically more expensive alternative, but Apple doesn’t care and Apple isn’t interested in selling the HomePod to the general populous anyway.

I’ve owned a HomePod now for several weeks and I can absolutely say that it meets all of my needs with regard to Apple Music playback, HomeKit support, calendar support, and reminders support. As one of those consumers who intentionally pushed deep into the Apple ecosystem, I just plugged in the HomePod and within 5 minutes of setup I was telling Siri to play my favorite music and add dish soap to my wife and I’s shared shopping list. For that 4% of the market share, the HomePod is the perfect smart speaker.