HomePod Gaining New ‘Ambient Sounds’ Siri Feature This Fall, Radio Station Support Launching September 30

Apple this week quietly updated the HomePod's product page on Apple.com, including a few release dates for upcoming features (via 9to5Mac). HomePod will gain the ability to tune into live radio stations through Siri controls on September 30, after this feature was first announced at WWDC in June (and made available to some users in Germany this July).


Additional HomePod features, including multi-user support and music handoff, will not launch until "later this fall." With iOS 13, Siri on HomePod can recognize the voices of different HomePod users, queuing up each person's favorite music on the speaker. Handoff lets any media you have playing on your iPhone or iPad be handed off to the HomePod.

One new feature has also been added to the HomePod page on Apple.com, called "Ambient Sounds." Apple says that you'll be able to relax to sounds like ocean waves, forest birds, rainstorms, and more with this feature, also coming in the fall.


It sounds like the company is working on making ambient noise a big new feature of the HomePod, after being requested by users since the speaker launched in early 2018. Although Apple Music has a multitude of ambient noise playlists, this should make it even easier to start playing relaxing sounds on HomePod.

There have been numerous announcements from Apple this week thanks to the iPhone event yesterday, including the all new iPhone 11 family, the new 10.2-inch iPad, and Apple Watch Series 5.

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HomePod Launches in Japan and Taiwan [Updated]

Update: On schedule, the HomePod has now launched in Japan and Taiwan.

Original story follows.



Apple's HomePod is set to launch in Japan and Taiwan next week, on Friday, August 23, Apple announced today. Ahead of the launch, Apple is accepting pre-orders through its online stores in Japan and Taiwan.


The HomePod is available for ¥32,800 in Japan and NT$9,900 in Taiwan, which is $10 to $15 higher than the price in the U.S. When the HomePod first launched in the United States in 2018, it was priced at $349, but the price was lowered to $299 in April of this year.

Apple announced plans to expand the HomePod to Japan and Taiwan earlier this summer, and added support for the new countries in the 12.4 software made available for the HomePod in late July.

Apple now sells the HomePod in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong, along with Taiwan and Japan.

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2019 iPhones Said to Have Improved Shatter Resistance, Multi-Angle Face ID That Works Flat on Tables

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu have shared expectations for Apple's fall product lineup and beyond, revealing new details plus existing rumors about upcoming iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, HomePod, and AirPods models.


Starting with the iPhone, the report claims the widely rumored triple-lens rear camera system on the higher-end models will enable a larger field of view for capturing ultra-wide-angle photos and videos, in addition to improving low-light photos. New editing tools while recording video are also expected.

The high-end iPhones will look nearly identical to the current models from the front, but at least some colors on the back will have a new matte finish, according to the report. Interestingly, he adds that the new iPhones should better withstand drops due to an unspecified "new shatter-resistance technology."

The report claims a new multi-angle Face ID sensor that captures a wider field of view will enable users to unlock the next iPhones more easily, even when the devices are laying flat on a table for example.

Other features outlined for 2019 iPhones include "dramatically enhanced" water resistance and faster A13 processors with a new co-processor known internally as "AMX" or "matrix." As for the next iPhone XR, the report corroborates rumors of it gaining a dual-lens rear camera and a new green color option.

As for the iPad, the report claims both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be refreshed in 2019 with improved cameras and faster processors. The report also backs the rumor of a 10.2-inch iPad launching later this year.

Turning to the Apple Watch, this year's changes are said to be "more muted," revolving around watchOS 6 and new case finishes. Last week, iHelpBR's Filipe Espósito discovered new titanium and ceramic 40mm and 44mm Apple Watch models based on hidden assets in the watchOS 6 beta.

The report concludes that Apple plans to launch a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with slim bezels later this year, as well as new AirPods with water resistance and noise cancelation and a cheaper HomePod with reduced tweeters as early as 2020.


Tuesday, September 10 is the widely predicted date of Apple's traditional iPhone event, just under three weeks away.


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HomePod Launching in Japan and Taiwan on August 23, Pre-Orders Available Now

Apple's HomePod is set to launch in Japan and Taiwan next week, on Friday, August 23, Apple announced today. Ahead of the launch, Apple is accepting pre-orders through its online stores in Japan and Taiwan.


The HomePod is available for ¥32,800 in Japan and NT$9,900 in Taiwan, which is $10 to $15 higher than the price in the U.S. When the HomePod first launched in the United States in 2018, it was priced at $349, but the price was lowered to $299 in April of this year.

Apple announced plans to expand the HomePod to Japan and Taiwan earlier this summer, and added support for the new countries in the 12.4 software made available for the HomePod in late July.

Apple now sells the HomePod in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong, along with Taiwan and Japan.

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Apple’s HomePod Estimated to Have Just 5% of Smart Speaker Market Share in U.S.

Apple's HomePod accounted for just 5 percent of the estimated 76 million smart speaker installed base in the United States in the second quarter of 2019, according to new data shared today by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP).

Amazon continues to be the number one smart speaker vendor in the U.S., followed by Google. Amazon Echo devices accounted for 70 percent of smart speakers in the United States during the quarter, while Google Home devices accounted for 25 percent.


The smart speaker market has seen strong growth, with the U.S. installed base of 76 million speakers up nine percent from 70 million units in the March 2019 quarter. Growth is also up significantly compared to last June, when there were an estimated 50 million smart speakers in the United States.
"While the biggest growth in the market for smart speakers is in the holiday fourth quarter, Amazon Echo and Google Home continues to grow their installed bases in the past couple of quarters," said Josh Lowitz, Partner and Co-Founder of CIRP. "The market grew by 9% in the second quarter, and more than 50% year over year. Including Apple HomePod, all three major producers have maintained steady shares of the market in the past year. Continued aggressive pricing of the entry-level models seems to continue to encourage new customers to try a smart speaker and existing owners to consider adding more devices to their home.
Most people who own smart speakers have less expensive models like the Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini, with these units accounting for more than 50 percent of smart speakers in the U.S. during the quarter.


Though Apple has dropped the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299, the smart speaker is still significantly more expensive than speaker options from Google and Amazon, which has left Apple struggling to gain a foothold in the market.

Amazon's Echo Dot, for example, is priced at $50, but it is often available at even lower prices during sales and promotions. The same goes for the Google Home Mini, which is also priced at $49.

Rumors have suggested that Apple is considering a more affordable version of the HomePod that could be priced as low as $150, but it's not clear if and when Apple might release such a speaker.

CIRP's data is estimated and is based on a survey of 500 U.S. owners of Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod devices surveyed from July 1 to July 10 who owned one of the devices as of June 30, 2019.

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Amazon Reportedly Developing Echo With Better Sound Quality to Rival Apple HomePod and Other Speakers

Amazon is developing a higher-quality version of its popular Echo smart speaker, according to a new report today by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Prototypes of the cylindrical speaker are wider than the current Echo to squeeze in additional components including at least four tweeters, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter.
The speaker is reportedly being developed to include improved audio to rival Apple's HomePod and other competing speakers on the market. According to Gurman, the Echo has lost some ground to more premium smart speakers that are marketed as offering superior sound.
The Echo, which went on sale in 2015, will grab 63% of the U.S. market this year, according to EMarketer. But it has lost some ground to the Sonos One, Apple Inc. HomePod and Google Home Max -- all of which claim to deliver superior audio. Google now has 31% of the market, while the rest have a combined 12%. The HomePod isn't selling as well as Apple expected, and the company recently dropped the price.
The development of a higher-quality Echo marks a new phase in Amazon's attempt to gain ground in the smart speaker segment. The company has previously introduced halfway-house solutions to improve the audio of the existing cylindrical Echo by offering a standalone subwoofer and connections to link the speakers to a hi-fi stereo system. The Echo range will also receive minor updates this fall, people familiar with the plans told Bloomberg.

Amazon also reportedly plans to launch a hi-fidelity version of its music streaming service by the end of the year.

In addition, Gurman's report includes details on Amazon's effort to ramp up work on its home robot, which has wheels and can be controlled by Alexa voice commands.

People familiar with the project have reportedly described prototypes that are about waist-high and navigate with the help of an array of computer-vision cameras, but it still isn't clear what purpose the robot would serve.

Amazon originally intended to reveal the robot, known internally as "Vesta," as early as this year, but the machine isn't quite ready for mass production, according to the report.

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HomePod Launching in Japan and Taiwan This Summer

Apple has announced that its HomePod speaker will be available to order in Japan and Taiwan later this summer.


The speaker has had a slow worldwide rollout since launching in February 2018, with availability currently limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong.

In April, Apple lowered the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299 in the United States. As of the fourth quarter of 2018, the speaker had an estimated worldwide market share of just four percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

Pricing will be ¥32,800 in Japan and NT$9,900 in Taiwan.

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Lead Creative Best Known for Spike Jonze HomePod Video Leaves Apple’s Ad Agency

Marketing creative Arnau Bosch Vergés, best known for the Spike Jonze-directed HomePod commercial "Welcome Home," is leaving Apple's ad agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab.


According to the The Drum, which broke the news, Vergés is departing to focus on SoundStorming, a social media platform he founded for musicians.
"After working for such a huge brand that means so much to culture with amazing talented people like Spike Jonze, you're spoiled," Bosch told The Drum. "You ask yourself, where am I going after this?

"I think if I really want to push for something different and try to discover what's going to be next, now is the best time ever, now Apple is at its peak."
Vergés HomePod ad, which used real-world effects where CGI would usually figure, won several industry awards last year, including one at Cannes Film Festival.

The lead creative's exit follows Apple's recent hire of Nick Law, a marketing executive who previously served as chief creative officer at Publicis Groupe.

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iOS 13 Siri Live Radio Feature Already Working for Some HomePod and iPhone Users in Germany

At WWDC in June, Apple said iOS 13 would bring live radio requests to Siri from iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Radio.com, but it looks like that rollout is already underway ahead of the software's release in the fall.

Image via Macerkopf.de

Macerkopf.de this morning reports that some users in Germany are having success asking Siri to play live national radio stations over HomePods running the latest official software and via Apple Music on devices running iOS 12.

It's not clear how far the company has got in laying the groundwork for live radio Siri requests elsewhere, but Apple says that come the official global rollout in the fall, Apple device owners will have around 100,000 radio stations to choose from.

Other new features destined for HomePod this fall include Handoff for music, podcasts, and phone calls, as well as individual voice recognition for up to six users.


Apple says the latter feature will enable a personalized listening experience and personal access to messages, reminders, lists, and calendars, as well as the ability to make phone calls from the user's contacts.

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Deals Spotlight: Get the HomePod for Just $200 at Target ($100 Off)

Target is heading into the weekend with an all-new sale on Apple's HomePod smart speaker, now priced at $199.99, down from the original price of $299.99. At $100 off, this sale is the lowest we've ever seen on a brand new HomePod, and the best deal on the speaker so far in 2019.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

You can purchase the HomePod in either White or Space Gray on Target.com, and ship the speaker to your home or pick it up in-store. Additionally, Target RedCard holders have a chance to save an extra 5 percent on the HomePod.

Apple dropped the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299 back in April, hoping to boost sales for the speaker after some blowback to the steep cost of the device. You can find sales like this one and many more in our full Deals Roundup.

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