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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Useful to know especially add to playlist and like and dislike.
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.
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.
I like this review from Jim, giving a personal use case of the HomePod with these tidbits:
Setting it up:
Apple is so good at giving us a quick and easy setup for devices and HomePod is no different.
When you plug in HomePod, you just need to hold your iPhone close to it and it will open a card asking if you want to set up the device.
Transfer your Accounts and Settings. This is your Siri preferences, Apple Music, Wi-Fi networks, etc.
And that’s it, HomePod is set up and ready to go. It took a couple of minutes, if that, and I was up and running.
On sound quality:
First and foremost, HomePod is a music speaker, and it excels at that task. I’ve compared HomePod to Sonos One, Google Max, and Amazon Echo to get a feeling for how each sounds in the same environment.
To be absolutely clear, there was no comparison in sound quality. HomePod offered so much more quality that it was quite literally laughable to hear the others. The only speaker that sounded decent was the Sonos One, but even it couldn’t compete with HomePod.
One of the other songs that I tested HomePod with was “Demons” by Jasmine Thompson. This is just her and a piano, so there isn’t a lot of bass, but there is a lot of treble, mids, and detail in her voice that HomePod could screw up.
You could hear her breathe between lyrics. Everything was very clear and warm, which is critical for such a soft, meaningful song.
One thing about having multiple people access the HomePod that bothered me was that it would affect my “For You” section in Apple Music.
When you love songs, play songs and add songs to your library, Apple Music will suggest similar music, assuming that is what you want. If someone else, or a group of people come over and start playing genres you don’t like, it would screw everything up.
Well, it turns out I didn’t have to worry about that after all. There is a setting in the Home app that allows you to prevent the music played on HomePod from affecting the “For You” section of Apple Music.
On the microphones:
With Megadeth playing at 80 percent volume on HomePod (Yes, that’s loud), I stood 20-25 feet away and said “Hey Siri,” in a normal speaking voice. I expected no response. However, the music immediately lowers and Siri was ready for me to ask a question or give it an instruction.
Siri on which device:
If you have a number of different devices in the same room, you may wonder which Siri will respond to your request. For example, you set up a new HomePod, you’re wearing an Apple Watch, an iPad is on the table, and your iPhone is in your pocket.
Then you say, “Hey Siri.”
This is one of the really smart things that happens that we expect Apple to be able to figure out, and they did.
Siri polls all of your devices over Bluetooth to figure out which device should handle your request. Everything being equal, HomePod will respond. However, the system is smart enough to know if HomePod or another device should answer.
For instance, if you raise your wrist and say, “Hey Siri,” the combined devices will assume you want Siri on your Apple Watch. If you’re using your iPhone, then you probably want that device to respond. If you’re just sitting, not touching any device, then HomePod will take over.
That is very smart.
In a devastatingly effective demo, Apple lines up four of these things: The Google Home Max ($400), Sonos One ($200), Amazon Echo ($100), and the HomePod. They’re volume-matched and rigged to an A/B/C/D switch, so a single song can hop from one to the other. (Apple even installed a halo backlight behind each speaker that illuminated to show you which one was playing.)
The HomePod sounded the best. Its bass, in particular, was amazing: full and deep, but also distinct and never muddy — you could hear the actual pitch of the bass notes, not just the thud. That, unsurprisingly, is where other small speakers have trouble.
The Amazon Echo is a much smaller, slimmer device, one-third the price, so it’s forgiven for sounding thin compared with the HomePod. The Sonos One came awfully close to the HomePod’s rich sound; you’d really have to hear the A/B test to declare a difference. The real shock was the Google Home Max, a massive, 12-pound machine that’s supposed to be all about the sound; it sounded like cardboard compared with the HomePod and Sonos.
So for audio quality, the HomePod truly is the best sounding device. It is surprising and damning that the Google Home Max did not sound good at all for such an expensive device.