Apple's HomePod will be shipping soon — but beyond the features initially promised but not immediately arriving, there look to be a few more things coming to the HomePod in the future. AppleInsider gives you a full rundown of what to expect from HomePod in the weeks and months after it launches.
AppleInsider spoke at some length on Tuesday about how the stereo linking and multiple-room audio features were missing from the HomePod at launch. We've reached out to Apple through several vectors, and received no response as of yet as to why the features are absent.
We were able to listen to the HomePod during the 2017 WWDC, and was able to listen to a pair of HomePods paired for stereo — so we know the feature works at some level. At the time, we couldn't test for multiple room support, so we're not sure where that feature stands at the moment.
AirPlay 2 is coming later, despite being able to be tested by developers in beta releases of iOS 11.2.5. Apple says that AirPlay 2 is coming to the HomePod later this year, and presumably, multiple-room support will be added at the same time, in a similar fashion to how macOS handles multiple outputs in iTunes.
We don't know precisely how stereo linking works. It is unknown if multiple HomePods will recognize proximity and tailor audio accordingly, or if a setting needs to be manually selected. Time will tell.
Above and beyond all this, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has alluded to more coming in the future for the device.
Straight from the source
Right after the debut of the HomePod at the 2017 WWDC, Cook fielded questions about the day's releases. Leading the discussion was the HomePod.
"What we've tried to do is build something that is breakthrough speaker first," said Cook, responding to a question about why people should buy the $349 HomePod over Amazon's cheaper Echo. "Music is deep in our DNA dating back to iTunes and iPod. Number one, we wanted something that sounded unbelievable."
At the core of the HomePod is Apple's Siri integration with Apple Music. At launch, the device has a subset of Siri, according to Apple. However, it does appear that limiting the device to only music and some other features will change.
"One of the advantages that we have is that there are a lot of things that Siri knows to do from the cloud," he added. "We'll start with a patch of those as (marketing chief) Phil (Schiller) showed you today during the keynote, and then you can bet that there's a nice follow-on activity as well."
At launch, Siri in the HomePod will send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and control what Apple calls "a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories." Absent is responding to knowledge-based queries — at least to start.
Discerning multiple users by voice?
Firmware delves by developers seem to indicate that Siri may be capable of identifying users by voice.
In the same examination that showed muted HomePod microphones the day before Apple announced the release date for the product, Filipe Esposito said that he believes strings in the code allow a HomePod to recognize multiple voices, and provide custom responses tailored to those individuals.
This may be a misinterpretation of code found in iOS 11.2.5 and the beta firmware for the HomePod, though. Apple hasn't officially said a word about this.
Adding features over time isn't new
We're already waiting for full support of a big feature in multiple Apple products. When they debuted, macOS High Sierra promised external GPU support which isn't arriving in full until the spring. When we were first told about it, iOS 11 had Apple Pay Cash and AirPlay 2 support discussed — the former is now available, and the latter could be activated by developers in the last iOS 11.2.5 beta prior to Tuesday's public launch.
There's been a lot of internet drama about Apple releasing products unfinished, and adding features over time. But, this is nothing new, as Apple already adds new features to old hardware with new versions of macOS and iOS.
What's new is Apple telling us about these features before they get added to a product.