Apple cuts price of HomePod worldwide

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Homepod price cut

Apple cuts price of HomePod worldwide, now $299 at the US Apple Store – 9to5Mac:

Apple has officially lowered the price of the HomePod worldwide. In the price has fallen from $349 to $299, breaking the $300 level. HomePod has seen promotional discounts at many third party retailers (eg: it’s $279 right now at Best Buy) over its lifespan, but now Apple has dropped the smart speaker’s standard list price.

This price cut represents a roughly 15% drop and seemingly applies to every region, not just the US. The UK price has fallen from £319 to £279.

I welcome the price drop from Apple but I do wonder how it effects their own margin on the product, especially when John Gruber alluded that it made a loss recently.

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★ HomePod has 6% of US smart speaker market

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HomePod captures 6% of US smart speaker market as cheaper Google Home and Amazon Echo models dominate – 9to5Mac:

The report says that Echo has 70% of the install base and Google Home speakers account for 24% of the whole. It says the relative shares of each manufacturer have roughly remained the same throughout 2018.

This market share is not likely to improve greatly without Siri offering something more compelling that it currently does to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices. The majority of customers will go for affordability in this voice-activated market and that will keep Amazon on top and Apple lagging behind going forward on their current iterations.

★ Bose unveils new smart speaker and soundbars with Alexa voice control, AirPlay 2

News

Bose unveils new smart speaker and soundbars with Alexa voice control, AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant coming soon | 9to5Toys:

Bose has today announced its latest smart speakers, or more specifically, one smart speaker and two smart soundbars. With Alexa voice control built-in, support coming for Google Assistant, and AirPlay 2 arriving next year, Bose is looking to better compete with Amazon, Google, and Apple.

Bose detailed its three new offerings in a press release today, the Bose Home Speaker 500 and Bose Soundbar 500 and 700. All three have integrated Alexa voice control and can be used on their own or as a multi-room system.

Apple users will be pleased to hear these new speakers will be gaining AirPlay 2 support in “early 2019.” While Bose didn’t specifically mention Google Assistant, presumably that functionality will also be arriving as it said “other voice assistants to follow.”

Other features the Home Speaker 500 and Soundbar 500 and 700 share include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Bose’s proprietary custom-designed eight-microphone array. It is “precisely positioned for accurate near-field and far-field voice pickup” that allows the speakers to hear commands even when you have the audio turned up high.

★ iOS 12 beta 5 confirms HomePod will add support for making phone calls

News

Rambo writing for 9to5Mac:

On the same screen, it describes some of the personal requests you can make to HomePod: “…add reminders, create notes, make phone calls, and more”.

Since there’s no developer or public beta for HomePod, we can’t actually test the feature until the final release, but this is a very solid indication that this feature is definitely coming for HomePod with iOS 12.

★ Sonos speakers now work with AirPlay 2

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Sonos speakers now work with AirPlay 2, control Apple Music with Siri | 9to5Mac:

Great news for Sonos customers: AirPlay 2 has arrived. This makes compatible Sonos speakers the first third-party AirPlay 2 speakers to hit the market, and support is being added retroactively through a free software update.

This means you can use Sonos speakers to play audio from iTunes on the Mac and all iPhone and iPad apps including Music, TV, YouTube, and Netflix. Sonos speakers can also be used for multi-room audio playback with HomePod and Apple TV, and Siri can control Apple Music and Podcasts playback from iPhone, iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV.

9to5Mac Happy Hour Sonos customers have long requested AirPlay support for their speakers, but Sonos cited issues with latency and playback interruptions as reasons for not adopting Apple’s wireless streaming protocol. Sonos changed their tune when Apple unveiled AirPlay 2 which reduces latency and accounts for Wi-Fi interruptions.

AirPlay 2 works with the newest Sonos speakers (recognizable by their touch controls instead of hardware buttons) which includes Sonos Beam, Sonos Playbase, Sonos One, and Sonos Play:5.

You’re not totally out of luck if you have other Sonos speakers, but AirPlay 2 is a lot easier to use on newer speakers. Older Sonos speakers can work with AirPlay 2 when paired with compatible speakers (like a Sonos Play:1 paired with a Sonos One as a single stereo speaker). You can also press play on an older Sonos speaker without AirPlay 2 to pick up the audio stream from a compatible Sonos speaker.

Good to see Apple open up 3rd party integration with Sonos for AirPlay 2.

★ Apple to Unveil High-End AirPods, Over-Ear Headphones For 2019

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Apple to Unveil High-End AirPods, Over-Ear Headphones For 2019 – Bloomberg:

Slated for 2019, the earbuds will likely cost more than the existing $159 pair, and that could push Apple to segment the product line like it does with iPhones, one of the people said. Apple is also working on a wireless charging case that’s compatible with the upcoming AirPower charger.

The company has also internally discussed adding biometric sensors to future AirPods, like a heart-rate monitor, to expand its health-related hardware offerings beyond the Apple Watch, another person said. The current AirPods will be refreshed later this year with a new chip and support for hands-free Siri activation, Bloomberg News reported.

There are over-ear headphones coming from Apple, too. Those will compete with pricey models from Bose Corp. and Sennheiser. They will use Apple branding and be a higher-end alternative to the company’s Beats line.

★ Apple’s clever new HomePod ad

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Tom Warren for The Verge:

The YouTube and TV ads debuted two days ago, and it’s already amassed nearly 5 million views on YouTube alone. I’ve had it on repeat ever since. I’d normally drop a fancy new song into a playlist on Spotify, but Anderson .Paak’s Til It’s Over is nowhere to be seen on the rival streaming music service just yet. That’s not the case with Apple Music, where you can happily stream the latest single until your heart’s content.

I haven’t cared about Drake or Chance the Rapper’s Apple Music exclusives in the past, but there’s something about this latest Anderson .Paak track that gets my feet moving (almost) like FKA twigs’. It’s the first time I’ve felt like I’m missing out not having an Apple Music subscription, and that’s exactly how Apple wants me to feel. That makes Apple’s HomePod advertisement a clever Apple Music ad in disguise, one of Apple’s latest masterstrokes of marketing.

Interesting that the song choice maybe more strategic in choice then first thought.

★ HomePod Diary

Linked

Ben Lovejoy:

Siri commands I find particularly useful with HomePod:

Who is this?
Add this to playlist X
Play more from this artist
Play more like this
Like this
Dislike this

Useful to know especially add to playlist and like and dislike.

★ The Telegraph’s Apple HomePod Review:

Linked

James Titcomb:

At the moment, there’s no support for two speakers in stereo, or multi-room, but Apple says this is going to come later this year with a software update. I experienced two speakers together in a demo, and the sound was truly spectacular.

Great little tidbit here suggesting the software update coming later this year could be better than expected.

★ Shazam with Siri on HomePod to identify songs playing in the room

Linked

Benjamin Mayo for 9to5Mac:

On HomePod, I think these same phrases are supposed to work. However, because the HomePod is almost always playing tracks, asking Siri on HomePod ‘what song is this?’ will just tell you about the song that the device is currently playing.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to unambiguously get Siri to use Shazam. Just walk over to your HomePod and say ‘Hey Siri, Shazam this’.

The HomePod will then say something to the effect of ‘I’m listening’. After a few seconds, as long as it can hear the song in the room, it will reply by saying ‘It sounds like [sound name] by [artist]’.

What’s really nice is that the HomePod will remember the context for the follow up. With a successful match, you can then say ‘Hey Siri, play it’. It will then start playing the matched track from your library or from Apple Music, assuming you are subscribed.

I tested this just by holding up my iPhone playing a track from YouTube and it worked perfectly. Thanks to the array of microphones inside HomePod, you don’t have to be super close to it either.

In party situations, this is kind of a handy feature to know about if you just want to get a certain track playing from someone else’s device that doesn’t necessarily have an iPhone or isn’t streaming from Apple Music.

Using Shazam is probably the quickest way to go from watching a VEVO music video from YouTube on your phone to playing the song on the HomePod.

Good tip for when another device is playing music near the HomePod.