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Dan Moren for Macworld
February 23, 2018 5:53 AM PT
With the addition of the HomePod to my arsenal of smart speakers, we’ve reached a dangerous tipping point in my household: there are roughly double the number of smart speakers as people.
The past couple weeks of living with the HomePod has given me a bit of time not only to see what the device has to offer right now, but has also helped me sketch out some ideas about where the future might be able to take it.
In many ways, the HomePod reminds me a lot of the Apple Watch. But whereas the chief criticism of the latter upon its release was that it tried to do too much, the HomePod follows more of a tried-and-true Apple pattern: it starts small.
But perhaps it starts too small.
As the Apple Watch evolved, it benefited from slimming down its portfolio to focus on a few key areas, but the HomePod instead has a lot of room to improve by deepening its focus on the areas that it’s already in.
By Dan Moren
February 22, 2018 2:49 PM PT
Siri is a thread that runs through all of Apple’s platforms now, and it has subtly different features on most of them. At best, this means adapting to the particular vagaries of each device—for example, Siri on the Mac can look for files, while Siri on the Apple TV can understand jumping to particular timestamps or turning on captions.
But sometimes there seems to be a divided even on a single device.
Here’s a little experiment for you. Bring up the search field on your iPhone and type in a flight number—for example, WW126. Near the top of the results will be an option to bring up flight status. Tap that and you’ll get a nice little map of the flight as well some other info, like destination, duration, and so on.
Now, try asking Siri for the status of the same flight. I’ll wait.
Right. You’ll notice that Siri doesn’t seem to know anything about flight status, and instead goes straight to a web search.
How bizarre is that? The information is there, and Siri can clearly correctly parse the query; it just either doesn’t know how to hand it off or there’s some other weird reason it can’t.1
My default assumption there are byzantine rights issues involved in cases like this. Or, in short, the reason is “lawyers.” Technically both the voice assistant in iOS and its search are powered by Siri’s intelligence, so it’s odd that the features don’t line up. I’m sure there are other examples of situations like this—let me know if you’ve found some. ↩
February 22, 2018 • 37 minutes
We kick it all off with recommendations for wireless headphones that might surprise you, then it’s on to discussion of Alto’s Odyssey, our TV show recommendations, and some brief discussion of the other technologically pressing issues of our day. We wrap it all up with some music to play us off…
February 21, 2018 • 29 minutes
This week, on the only tech show that talks (and ticks?), Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Christa Mrgan and Anže Tomić to discuss our reading habits, how we use tech to consume news, our thoughts on the demise of Twitter for Mac, and whether we think facial recognition truly has superseded fingerprints as a way of accessing our phones.
February 19, 2018 • 1 hour, 27 minutes
This week on Upgrade: What does the death of Twitter for Mac say about the future of Mac software? Is Apple making big changes to how it releases software, and how will it impact the quality of the Apple product experience? We ponder these questions, note some surprising additions to Apple’s video programming, and briefly discuss how Jason permanently scarred his bookshelf.
February 16, 2018 • 36 minutes
With Dan’s triumphant return from Iceland—no blizzard can stop him!—the team reunites just in time to discuss a veritable onslaught of HomePod controversies. How is the sound? What’s with the white rings? Does Dan have way too many smart speakers? Why is John talking about Zip Drives? Will Lex ever stop making groan-worthy puns? Why are there so many questions this week?! The answer to at least a couple of those awaits.
Dan Moren for Macworld
February 16, 2018 4:39 AM PT
Traveling is a great chance to put technology through the wringer. It’s a time when you have to be economical about the gear you carry, when your environments challenge you, and when you start seeing places where your devices could go further and do more than they already do.
Last week, my girlfriend and I spent nine days in Iceland (it was supposed to be seven, but a blizzard stranded us for an extra forty-eight hours). During that time we covered roughly half the country, from snowy lava fields in the west to black sand beaches—also with their share of snow—in the south. We carried more than a few pieces of tech with us, which gave us ample time to see what worked well and where we could use some improvement over the status quo.
Jason Snell for Macworld
February 15, 2018 8:55 AM PT
The HomePod doesn’t behave like most other Apple devices. Unlike the Apple Watch, there’s no dedicated app. It supports AirPlay, so it shows up in the list of audio sources—but it’s also remote-controllable like an Apple TV. And to configure it, you don’t visit the Settings app, but the Home app. Here’s a quick guide to where and how you can control the HomePod from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
By Dan Moren
February 15, 2018 8:54 AM PT
When traveling, I generally pack a headphone adapter—this five-port Belkin model, even though it’s kind of overkill—so that my girlfriend and I can watch videos together on the plane.1 It’s a perfectly fine solution, and generally one without problems, given how low-tech it is.
But on our most recent flight back from vacation, we were in the midst of our ascent and were about to watch a video when my girlfriend realized that she’d pulled out her Lightning earbuds instead of the standard minijack pair. Not a problem once we could get up and get to her bag in the overhead, but a minor inconvenience in the meantime.
Given the opportunity, however, I decided to do a little experimentation. After all, I had my Bose QC-35s, which work over either Bluetooth or via a standard minijack. It occurred to me that we could plug in her Lightning headphones and connect the QC-35s to the iPad at the same time.
Unfortunately, this is where we ran up against an iOS limitation. Currently, there’s no way for it to pipe audio to multiple outputs, even if we’re talking about two headphones that are physically connected to separate ports.
Now, this probably isn’t an issue that people run into on a daily basis. Even on the Mac, you still need to resort to a tool like Audio MIDI Setup in order to push the same audio to multiple outputs.
However, I’d also imagine I’m not the only person who’s frustrated by having to carry around an extra dongle, so it’d be awfully nice if there were an option to let you connect multiple audio outputs and play the same audio to all of them.
What makes this interesting is that the upcoming AirPlay 2 will allow iOS devices to output audio to multiple AirPlay devices at the same time. The screenshots floating around of the iOS 11.3 beta, which includes this, feature show the ability to send audio to, for example, several Apple TVs. This has also been one promised feature for the HomePod, even though it didn’t coincide with the device’s arrival.
So, as long as we’re sending audio to multiple outputs, why not the ability to, say, connect two pairs of Bluetooth headphones to a single iOS device? The Mac can accomplish this via the Audio MIDI Setup app, so it seems like it ought to be feasible to do the same thing on an iOS device. Or, for that matter, to a set of Lightning earbuds and minijack headphones. Or a set of minijack headphones and Bluetooth headphones.
As of iOS 11.3, the interface for sending audio to multiple AirPlay speakers will already be there, so it’s more a matter of supporting Bluetooth or physical audio connections. Then again, Apple may simply have no interest in spending the time and resources to support those options and instead push users towards AirPlay-compatible devices.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve hoped for bolstered audio capabilities in iOS, though we’ve previously focused on letting more than one app use an audio input to facilitate podcast recording. So here’s hoping that a future version of iOS features more robust audio support across the board.
Thanks to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, when we’re in a hotel or Airbnb, I’ve mainly just resorted to using the built-in speakers, which are plenty good enough. ↩
February 14, 2018 • 29 minutes
This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that’s chock full of romance, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Casey Liss and Aleen Simms to discuss our most essential travel tech, our most romantic uses of technology, our biggest tech disappointments, and our thoughts on the first few days with HomePod.
February 13, 2018 • 1 hour, 51 minutes
This week on Upgrade: After a weekend with the HomePod, it’s time for Myke and Jason to discuss what they like and dislike about Apple’s new connected speaker. Is it so loud that Myke is angering his neighbors? Will Jason replace his Amazon Echo? How does the HomePod match up with other products in the category? Plus, Apple introduces its new battery interface and one of the company’s first big TV shows loses its creative team.