Apple Releases New 12.2 Software for the HomePod

Alongside the iOS 12.2 update that was introduced following Apple's services-focused "It's Show Time" event, Apple has also debuted a new 12.2 software update designed for the HomePod.

The new HomePod software will be installed automatically on the HomePod after you update to iOS 12.2, but you can also manually update and check your software version by following the instructions in our HomePod software how to.


According to the release notes for the update, the new software for the HomePod is minor in scale and designed specifically for university or enterprise users.
iOS 12.2 includes support for joining most enterprise or university campus 802.1x networks that do not require unique credentials to join.
There are no other features that appear to be included in the HomePod update. Right now, the HomePod is available in the United States, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong. For more details, make sure to check out our HomePod roundup.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Estimated to Have Just 4% Market Share Worldwide Despite 45% Sales Growth Last Quarter

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.


By comparison, Amazon and Google commanded the market with an estimated 13.7 million and 11.5 million smart speakers shipments respectively. The two companies combined for an estimated 65.5 percent market share in the quarter.


A lot of this comes down to pricing. At $349, the HomePod is significantly more expensive than the Amazon Echo and Google Home. In particular, the smaller Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini models were available for as low as $25 during the holiday season, a fraction of the cost of a HomePod.

"Amazon and Google both have broad model lineups, ranging from basic to high-end, with even more variants from Amazon. Apple of course has only its premium-priced HomePod, and likely won't gain significant share until it offers an entry-level product closer to Echo Dot and Home mini," CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz said last month.

To improve sales, many resellers offered the HomePod for $249 during the holiday season, and $279 is a commonly seen price too.

Second is the fact that the HomePod is not so smart, as many reviews found, due to Siri's shortcomings compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple recently restructured its Siri team as it works to make improvements.

A third reason is availability. Apple launched the HomePod two to three years after its largest competitors, and sales remain limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong. Amazon and Google smart speakers are available in more countries.

Last year, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple was "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod, potentially due to shipments falling "far below market expectations." It could end up being a Siri-enabled Beats speaker.

Of course, the Strategy Analytics data is estimated to begin with. Apple does not disclose HomePod sales, instead grouping the speaker under its "Wearables, Home, and Accessories" category in its earnings reports alongside the Apple Watch, Apple TV, AirPods, Beats, iPod touch, and other accessories.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Apple Hires Ex-Microsoft Exec to Revamp Smart Home Business

CNBC reports that Apple has hired ex-Microsoft exec and former CEO of a smart lock company to revamp Apple's home initiatives.
Hiring Jadallah is the latest signal that Apple plans to get serious about its own efforts in the home. Recently, the company acquired a start-up called Pullstring, a start-up that specializes in voice-enabled toys. That purchase could help the smartphone maker become the center of a connected living room.
Apple has been making movement into the home space for years, with the introduction of HomeKit as well as the HomePod which is powered by Siri. HomePod, however, has lagged behind its competitors despite making steady improvements. Apple's latest hire as well as recent acquisition of a voice technology company seems to indicate that they are refocusing their efforts.


Sam Jadallah's Linkedin page

Jadallah was most recently CEO of failed smart lock company Otto. Otto was described as a "luxury smart lock":
With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios packed inside the surprisingly compact design, Otto promises to let you or anyone you choose inside with just a touch whenever it senses an authorized phone within range.
That company ultimately failed, but it appears that Jadallah will be applying that knowledge forward at Apple.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Apple Tweaks British and Australian Speaking Voices for Siri on HomePod

Over the past 24 hours, we've seen a handful of reports talking about a new update to the speaking voice of Siri on HomePod in a few regions. These reports are mostly located in the United Kingdom and Australia, and mention the British (Male and Female) and Australian (Male and Female) speaking voices for the assistant, specifically on Apple's HomePod smart speaker.


The change appears to be very subtle. MacRumors readers described the Australian Female and British Male voices as "more natural" and "much clearer," and similar reports have emerged about other voices. Although there are many different descriptions for each voice, the consensus appears to be that the tweaks make Siri sound more human-like.

HomePod users can choose any Siri voice no matter the region they are located in, but as of now the vast majority of these reports appear to be located in the same regions as the voice they represent. This may be the beginning of a wider rollout, but that's still unclear at this point.

Twitter user @callumjcoe recorded the difference between the current iteration of the Australian Female voice (on an iPad) and the updated voice (on HomePod). Of course, distortion and muddled sound quality from a recording don't provide a perfect example, but there is a slight change between the two heard in the video, which is likely much more pronounced in person.


As of writing, MacRumors hasn't noticed any similar updates to Siri on HomePod (for any voices) in the United States. Apple has updated Siri over the past year with improvements to the assistant's ability to recognize local businesses and destinations, as well as new jokes, but many Apple users remain frustrated with the technology. One of the last major updates to Siri came in iOS 11 in 2017, when Apple gave Siri a more natural voice that had better pronunciation and different inflection depending on what's being said.

In early 2018, Siri creator, co-founder, and former board member Norman Winarsky talked about the origins of Siri and the company's intentions for the assistant before Apple acquired it. According to the co-founder, Siri was originally meant to be incredibly intelligent in just a few key areas -- travel and entertainment -- and then "gradually extend to related areas" once it mastered each. Apple's acquisition pivoted Siri to an all-encompassing life assistant, and Winarsky said that this decision has likely led Apple to search "for a level of perfection they can't get."

Although unconfirmed, the new voice changes to Siri may be Apple's latest attempt to make the voice assistant more personable and easy to talk to, in the wake of ongoing user complaints. If the changes roll out to other regions, we'll update this article.

(Thanks Sebastian, Robert, and Jared!)

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: Siri
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Future HomePod Could Feature 3D Hand Gestures and Face ID

A recently published Apple patent application suggests that a future HomePod could feature support for 3D hand gestures, Face ID, and much more.


While the patent application does not refer to the HomePod by name, it describes a voice-controlled assistant device such as a "countertop speaker" with various sensors and cameras that "gather hand gestures and other three-dimensional gesture input." This could include waving, clapping, and so forth.

Interestingly, the HomePod could have LEDs woven into the fabric to provide visual feedback for the hand gestures. The LEDs could also be configured to display alphanumeric characters through the fabric that change depending on time of day.

3D hand gesture support on the HomePod could utilize technology Apple gained from its acquisition of PrimeSense in 2013. In 2016, for example, Apple filed a patent for hand gestures on the Mac such as push, up, and wave that could be used to perform basic app interactions like scrolling through a menu.
Gestures described herein include focus gestures and unlock gestures. A focus gesture enables the user to engage (i.e., take control of) an inactive non-tactile 3D user interface. An unlock gesture enables the user to engage a locked non-tactile 3D user interface, as pressing a specific sequence of keys unlocks a locked cellular phone. In some embodiments, the non-tactile 3D user interface conveys visual feedback to the user performing the focus and the unlock gestures.

Examples of unlock gestures include an "up" gesture (e.g., raising hand 30 a specified distance), a sequence of two sequential wave gestures, and a sequence of two sequential push gestures, as described in detail hereinbelow.
PrimeSense's technologies were initially used by Microsoft for its Kinect motion sensor for Xbox. Apple later incorporated some of the technologies into the TrueDepth system that powers Face ID on the iPhone X and newer.

As for Face ID, the patent explains that the HomePod could identify users in the vicinity of the speaker using "facial recognition," as well as measure the distance of users to the speaker. This could allow for biometric authentication of Personal Requests, multiple user profiles, and more on a future HomePod.

In late 2017, the president of Apple supplier Inventec said his company sees a trend towards both facial and image recognition technology being incorporated into smart speakers, without specifying which speakers in particular. This led Apple analyst Jeff Pu to predict the launch of a Face ID-enabled HomePod in 2019.

The exhaustive patent goes on to describe a variety of other potential features for a future HomePod, such as ambient light sensing, displaying a sunshine icon if sunny weather is forecast, displaying the logo of a sports team that wins a game, heart rate sensing, and much more.

One quirky feature mentioned is an emoji-based avatar that would adapt to a user's mood or actions. If the user is sad, for example, the emoji may reflect sadness. Or, if a user asks the HomePod for information on purchasing a birthday gift, the speaker may display a happy emoji to present results.

The patent application was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2017, six months prior to the launch of the current HomePod, but it was only published in late January due to a standard 18-month confidentiality period.

Apple files numerous patent applications every week, of course, and many of the inventions do not see the light of day. Patents are also very detailed, encompassing many possible ideas, even ones that Apple might not have any plans to advance. So, the exact implementation if any remains to be seen.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: patent
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Struggling to Gain Market Share Alongside Cheaper Amazon Echo and Google Home Speakers

Apple's expensive HomePod speaker accounted for just six percent of the U.S. smart speaker installed base through the fourth quarter of 2018, according to research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.


CIRP estimates that the U.S. installed base of smart speakers reached 66 million units last quarter, suggesting that HomePod sales in the country have totaled around 3.96 million units since the speaker became available to order in January 2018. Apple does not disclose exact HomePod sales figures.

By comparison, the Amazon Echo and Google Home accounted for a commanding 70 percent and 24 percent of the installed base respectively as of last quarter, with both products proving to be popular holiday gifts.


At $349, the HomePod is significantly more expensive than the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The small, entry-level Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini models in particular were available for as low as $25 during the holiday season, while the HomePod is only available in one size.

"Amazon and Google both have broad model lineups, ranging from basic to high-end, with even more variants from Amazon. Apple of course has only its premium-priced HomePod, and likely won't gain significant share until it offers an entry-level product closer to Echo Dot and Home mini," said CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz.

To improve sales, many resellers offered the HomePod for $249 during the holiday season. Even now, the speaker is available for $279.99 at Best Buy, a $70 discount compared to its price on Apple.com.

In fairness, the HomePod also launched two to three years after many of its competitors, and sales remain limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong. But without a steeper price cut, the speaker faces an uphill battle.

In April 2018, well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple was "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod, potentially due to shipments of the current version being "far below market expectations." A report out of China said the lower-cost HomePod could be priced between $150 and $200 in the United States.

It's unclear if Apple would be willing to release a HomePod speaker with inferior sound quality versus the current model. Last year, a Chinese report said the lower-priced HomePod could actually be a Siri-enabled Beats speaker.

CIRP bases its findings on its survey of 500 U.S. owners of the HomePod, Amazon Echo, and Google Home, surveyed from January 1-11, 2019, who owned one of those speakers as of December 31, 2018.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: CIRP
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Gruber: Apple TV is Sold at Cost, HomePod at Slight Loss

On the latest episode of The Talk Show, Daring Fireball's John Gruber discusses Apple TV and HomePod pricing and whether Apple is charging too much for some of its products.

According to Gruber, Apple is actually selling the 2017 Apple TV 4K at cost, suggesting the device costs Apple $180 to make. As for the HomePod, Gruber said he believes Apple sells it at a loss.

One thing I've heard from reliable little birdie is Apple effectively sells [the Apple TV] at cost. Like they really are like a $180 box. And you think wow this is amazing, it has an A10 processor which we know is super fast, it has crazy good graphics.

I've heard the same thing about HomePod too. Why is HomePod so much more expensive than these other speakers you can talk to? HomePod I actually have reason to believe, Apple actually sells it at a loss. I can't prove it. I don't think it's a big loss.
Apple sells the 4K Apple TV for $180, and the HomePod for $349, though the HomePod at least is often available at a discount from third-party retailers. When the HomePod was released, estimates suggested it cost $216 to make in raw components, which does not factor into account other costs like research and development, software creation, and more.

Both the Apple TV 4K and the HomePod are priced higher than competing products from other companies like Amazon and Google, and rumors have suggested that Apple is working on lower-cost versions of both devices. For the Apple TV, Apple is said to be developing a stick-style Apple TV device, and for the HomePod, rumors suggest a smaller, cheaper model is in the works.

Gruber said that he also suspects the AirPods are priced close to cost as well, though he's not sure and can't prove it. And, of course, overtime, things become less expensive to manufacture as component costs come down. Something that cost $180 in 2017 might not cost the same in 2019, as an example.

Overall, Gruber says that Apple isn't pricing its products too high, it's developing products that are too good.

"If you think it's a problem that these products are so expensive compared to their competition, that too few people buy them, it's not because Apple is charging too much, it's because Apple engineered and designed too good of a product," said Gruber.

(Thanks, Ryan Jones!)

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12, HomePod

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Apple Releases Updated HomePod Software With Bug Fixes

Alongside the release of iOS 12.1.3, the latest update to the iOS 12 operating system, Apple has released new 12.1.13 software that's designed for the HomePod.

The new HomePod software will be installed automatically on the HomePod after you update to iOS 12.1.3, but you can also manually update and check your software version by following the instructions in our HomePod software how to.


As Apple outlined in its iOS 12.1.3 release notes, today's HomePod update addresses a few HomePod-related bugs.

It fixes an issue that could cause the HomePod to restart and it addresses an issue that could result in Siri ceasing to listen to a command.

HomePod is currently available in the United States, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong.

For more details on HomePod and the HomePod software, make sure to check out our dedicated HomePod roundup.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Now Available for Purchase in China and Hong Kong

Apple earlier this week announced that the HomePod would be available in China and Hong Kong on Friday, January 18, and as promised, the smart speaker is now available for purchase in both locations.

HomePod is priced at 2,799 yuan in China and HK$2,799 in Hong Kong.


In addition to being available from the Apple online store and Apple retail stores, Apple Authorized resellers in China and Hong Kong are also offering the HomePod for sale.

Apple's Phil Schiller said that the company is excited to bring HomePod to China and Hong Kong in a statement made when the launch was announced.
We're excited to bring HomePod to our customers in mainland China and Hong Kong markets. We can't wait for them to experience how great it sounds in their home, we think they are going to love it.
Ahead of the launch of the HomePod in China and Hong Kong, Apple added Siri support for Cantonese and Mandarin in China and a Cantonese dialect in Hong Kong in a software update released in December.

HomePod was first introduced in the United States, UK, and Australia almost a year ago, and has since expanded to Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Mexico, in addition to China and Hong Kong.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: China
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Now Counts Toward Apple Music Device Streaming Limits for Single Memberships, Apple Encouraging Family Upgrades

When it launched, Apple's HomePod smart speaker did not count toward an Apple Music subscription's device streaming limit. This meant that single-user Apple Music subscribers could stream one song on an iOS device and another on HomePod simultaneously, without one stream ending the other. Recently, this ability has disappeared for many Apple Music users, who are now unable to stream music on both HomePod and an iOS device at the same time.


While single memberships transition to this method of HomePod streaming, Apple Music family memberships will be able to continue to stream multiple songs on both iOS devices and HomePod without any of the streams getting interrupted. Moreover, when HomePod interrupts music streaming on an iPhone, a new pop-up box on iOS displays an option for single membership subscribers to upgrade to an Apple Music family plan. The box explains that up to 5 other people can stream their music at once using the family plan.

According to a tipster, posts on Reddit, and a few accounts on the MacRumors forums dating back to last summer, the timeline for this change is murky. As far back as August 2018, MacRumors users cczhu mentioned not being able to play music on both HomePod and Apple TV simultaneously. Similar experiences were shared later in the year, with HomePod counting towards an account's device streaming limit when playing Apple Music on other Apple products, and now it appears that this tweak has hit many more users.

Over the weekend, a few users on r/HomePod posted similar stories. According to Reddit user veteran_t, on Saturday they noticed music playing on their iPhone paused a playlist on their HomePod. Deciding to speak with Apple Support, a senior specialist told the user that any claims about HomePod not counting toward an Apple Music subscription's device streaming limit are third party quotes. The specialist continued by saying Apple never advertised this feature and that veteran_t's HomePod is now working in the originally intended way.

(Thanks, Jason!)

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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