At least Apple knows the difference between a tech demo and an actual product. More critically, it knows to prioritize features where it can actually deliver something good, rather than something better at bad.
Joe describes exactly how I’ve been thinking about the HomePod vs Alexa devices, only with more and better words.
Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.
I love how the HomePod sounds, but I have no way to quantify it. I’ll just link to this instead.
About the automatic room correction:
To have this sort of thing be a built in feature of the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) inside the speaker that is, for all intents and purposes omnidirectional, allowing it to adapt to any room, no matter how imperfect, is just beyond impressive. What Apple has managed to do here is so crazy, that If you told me they had chalk, candles, and a pentagram on the floor of their Anechoic chambers, I would believe you. This is witchcraft. I have no other word for it.
And for fun, from the comments (seanheis)
When I heard that Apple was releasing a smart speaker that had been in development for 6 years and could only set one timer at a time…I knew that it had been properly developed by an audiophile.
A combination of great sound and just-smart-enough control was enough to make me consider shelling out $350 for a HomePod. Early reviews raved about the HomePod’s sound quality, and that clinched it for me.
It may seem self-evident, but the most important aspect of any music speaker is sound quality. It doesn’t matter how “smart” a speaker is if it doesn’t sound good. I’m not talking about the smart device with a speaker you have in your kitchen for setting timers and telling you the weather. I’m talking about a speaker for listening to music. The HomePod is a speaker made for listening to music that also happens to be able to tell you the weather.
I have a few Alexa devices around the house, and I only ever ask them the same handful of questions. “What’s the weather?”, “Set a timer for 15 minutes”, “Remind me to take the trash out at 7:00 PM”. Siri on the HomePod doesn’t need to be terribly clever to keep up with Alexa in my house.
Even so, I was worried because Siri and I have never gotten along. I gave up using it (her?) on my iPhone long ago, and I’ve found Siri on the Watch to be pretty terrible.
Not so with the HomePod. I can be listening to loud music and casually say “Hey Siri turn it down” in a normal conversational voice from across the room and she always hears me. It’s wild how well it works. Not having to think about or second-guess Siri is new to me and quite a nice surprise.
As for the sound quality, I did a quick side-by-side comparison with a Sonos Play:5 and to my (admittedly non-audiophile) ears, the Play:5 sounds better but the HomePod holds its own. The Sonos packs more of a punch at louder volumes, but the HomePod sounds “bigger” somehow. The HomePod sounds great no matter where I am in the room. Its best sound isn’t limited to any particular sweet spot. I also think it sounds better at lower volumes than the Play:5.
So, even though I didn’t think I wanted a HomePod, I’m very happy to have one. I like it so much that I’m getting another one as soon as I sell the Sonos.
Allow me a brief rant about the trend of putting ginormous, unnecessary images at the top of every single blog post or article. Here it is:
Please don’t always include ginormous, unnecessary images at the top of every single blog post or article.
That would be great, thanks.
I haven’t read the entire Terms of Service for Medium.com, but I assume there must be a clause that says “You must place an image of at least 1800×1300 pixels above any useful article text, no matter the length of the article itself. The article’s title may, however, be placed above the image.”
That is the top of what is otherwise an interesting article about something completely unrelated to the 2000×1333 (1MB) image you see filling up the entire world.
Sure, it’s a cool photo (Kev Soto), but what’s it for? I’m guessing there’s a listicle somewhere (probably on Medium) called “10 Things Every Blogger Must Do To Be Successful!” and item 2 on that list is “Find an image, any image (relevance to the post is unimportant), and slap it right up top for no apparent reason.”
I’m sure it’s been demonstrated that including an “eye-catching graphic” on every post increases “audience engagement” by 47.5% but isn’t it really just a waste of time, bandwidth, and mental well-being?
I’ve been testing Pocket as my “read later” service and here’s what my list looks like:
Only one of those has an even remotely useful image associated with it. If I squint, those thumbnails look kind of nice, but when actually trying to use the page to find something to read, they’re just distracting noise.
And oh goody! Medium recently hooked up with Unsplash to make adding giant, off-topic images even easier…
I get why people do this, and I don’t expect anyone to stop doing it. I just wish they would.
If you go talk to a senior software developer, you’ll probably hear them complain about spaghetti code. This is when code is overwrought, unorganized, opaque, and snarled with dependencies. I perked up when I heard the term used for the first time, because, while I can’t identify spaghetti code as a designer, I sure as hell know about spaghetti workflows and spaghetti toolchains. It feels like we’re there now on the web.
I’m old and I just want my old web back so I’m nodding the whole time reading this.
I wouldn’t say my old electronics always aged gracefully, but their obsolescence wasn’t a death sentence. My old digital camera doesn’t do what some new cameras do — but it’s still a camera. My iPad, by contrast, feels as though it has been abandoned from on high, cut loose from the cloud on which it depends.
Above all, my old iPad has revealed itself as a cursed object of a modern sort. It wears out without wearing. It breaks down without breaking. And it will be left for dead before it dies.
Reading this made me sad.
I have an Apple IIc that was first used in 1984 and I can fire it up today and it still does what it did then. I may not have a use for what it can do, but that’s beside the point. 1984 was a long time ago and I’d like to not give up on the idea that things should remain functional for more than just a few years.
My electric kettle stopped working recently, so I decided to make a large format photograph of it before throwing it away.
I’ve used this kettle for a couple of years, but we never got along well. I liked the very controlled pour it allows, but all those buttons just to make some water hot?
I had to pull my tea kettle out of storage, so I made a photo of that, too.
A tea kettle is beautifully simple. You put water in it and set it on a burner. It makes noise when it’s ready. That’s it. It can’t really malfunction or otherwise fail. It has my preferred number of features… one.
And speaking of simple, I processed these 4×5 negatives in the new FF Monobath. Pour it in, agitate every 30 seconds for 6 minutes, and pour it out. Wash and hang to dry. Very simple.
After spending a few days with Ubuntu and Gnome (see My Linux Experience Day Two) I wanted a chance to finally try a “tiling” window manager. I’ve heard that they’re difficult at first but awesome once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Sounds right up my alley, so I installed xmonad, rebooted, logged in, and…
Nothing. The login area faded away and the screen stayed exactly the same, but empty. I had expected a blank screen because that’s what xmonad starts with, so thought maybe this was it. I tried a few of the magic key combinations and again, nothing. Frustrated, I thought I’d look for alternatives to xmonad, just to get a feel for that type of window manager and see if I liked working that way.
i3wm seemed popular and well-liked and a decent alternative to xmonad so I decided to install it. While poking around I ran into Manjaro i3 Community Edition. What’s that? It’s a Manjaro Linux derivative that uses i3 and a sane configuration by default. I’d never even heard of Manjaro Linux before. It’s based on Arch, which everyone told me was difficult, but it was highly ranked on DistroWatch.com, so throwing caution to the wind, I wiped the ThinkPad and installed Manjaro i3.
I’m so glad I did. i3 is terrifying and I’m still swearing a lot, but I can see the future and it looks efficient, lightweight, keyboard-driven, and cool.
Another welcome side effect is that the trackpad is now behaving properly. Not sure what the deal with was with Ubuntu but this is way better.
I have a long way to go before being remotely efficient on Linux but I’m having so much fun that it’s totally worth it.