Why everyone loves the HomePod, this week on The CultCast


Even audiophiles are surprised by HomePod.
Even audiophiles are surprised by HomePod.
Photo: Digital Trends

This week on The CultCast: Early reviews for the new iPad Pro and HomePod show Apple’s done it again. Plus: Someone in the Apple supply chain just accidentally leaked some of iPhone 8’s marquee features; speed tests show a big CPU boost in the new MacBook Pro; Apple finally offers us iCloud Storage sharing; our favorite unannounced iOS 11 features; and we’ll tell you what we like (and don’t) about the apps and gadgets we’re currently testing in an all-new Under Review.

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CultCast #288 – iPad Pro and HomePod get great reviews! Subscribe on iTunes

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This week’s links

Apple suppliers confirm two of iPhone 8’s biggest features

  • Apple supplier Largan has confirmed it will be shipping its new 3D sensors in time for iPhone 8, while another has confirmed waterproofing and wireless charging technology.
  • Largan’s sensors are capable of carrying out facial and iris recognition and provide an alternative to fingerprint scanning. They could be the solution Apple turns to if it is unable to embed a Touch ID scanner beneath the iPhone 8’s display.
  • iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models are already splash- and water-resistant with an IP67 rating, but Apple’s fine print warns that “splash, water, and dust resistance are not permanent conditions and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear.” iPhone water damage is not covered by Apple’s warranties.
  • But in Wednesday’s shareholders meeting, [Robert] Hwang, [Wistron CEO] told reporters that the Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit,”
  • A report earlier this year said Apple’s next iPhone models will feature improved IP68-rated water resistance (30 minutes in up to 3 feet of water)

2017 MacBook Pro is Up to 20% Faster Than Last Year’s Model in Benchmarks

  • Apple this week refreshed its MacBook Pro lineup with Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors, and early benchmarks for the notebooks suggest the 2017 models are up to 20 percent faster than the equivalent 2016 models equipped with Intel’s sixth-generation Skylake processors.
  • Only about a 30% improvement over 2012/2013 MacBook Pros…

10.5-inch iPad Pro review roundup: Apple’s most impressive tablet yet

  • One of the big improvements of the new iPad Pro is its new variable refresh rate display, which Apple calls ProMotion, and means that it can run at 120Hz, or twice as fast as previous displays. It can also cycle down to 24Hz on still images.
  • ARS has praised the new ProMotion by saying that it makes it easier to read text and scroll simultaneously, with the “ghosting” effect you get at 60Hz greatly reduced
  • What everyone agrees on is that the new A10x processor is blazingly fast
  • Smart keyboard is getting mixed reviews. Some saying it feels flimsy and unsatisfying to type on.
  • Uses the newest Touch ID.
  • Dramatically better antireflection coating.
  • About 30% faster than 9.7inch iPad Pro, even more on multicore Geekbench tests I saw. Export times in Garage Band almost halved in some cases.
  • Way better front (7MPX) and back cameras (12MPX), especially from the previous 12inch which had a 1.2 MPX camera.
  • Fuller, better sounding external speakers
  • iPad finally feels “pro”

HomePod First Listen Impressions: ‘Incredible’ Audio With Bass-Heavy Sound That Easily Beats Echo

A few websites have now gotten the chance to hear how HomePod sounds in a quiet environment, and they’re sharing their opinions online.

  • Mashable: “The audio wasn’t just loud — filling a room with sound, good or bad, is easy — it was rich.” Mashable noted that Apple had in-room comparisons with its competitors, including Sonos Play:3 and Amazon Echo, and that the HomePod easily beat the two other speakers in pure music playback quality.
  • CNET: “HomePod came off as bolder and more vivid than Sonos Play:3 in the [listening] experience, and a lot better than Amazon Echo. I’d also say the music sounded consistently vivid and crisp in a quiet space.”
  • What HiFi: “We also heard a pair of HomePods playing a live recording of ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles. The attention to detail was striking, with different instruments sounding discretely realised.”
  • Engadget called HomePod’s audio “incredible.”
    • “If listening to the HomePod was like listening to a CD, then audio through the Echo sounded like AM radio.”

Apple Drops 2TB iCloud Storage Price to $9.99, Eliminates 1TB Option

  • Following the WWDC keynote, Apple updated and simplified its iCloud storage tiers
    • 50GB: $0.99
    • 200GB: $2.99
    • 2TB: $9.99 (updated from 1TB)
  • Apple is offering an option to share a 200GB or 2TB iCloud storage plan with family members, which is perhaps the reason behind the price drop.
  • Google Photos offers free backup for photos and videos. Or you can back up via Plex premium.

Under Review

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    As for the HomePod, I think either Apple purposely was vague about the product or might fall short.

    I have a large catalog of music in iTunes Library that resides on one of my Macs. Since I already have a decent catalog, I only add when there’s something interesting, otherwise I stick to my library and I don’t subscribe to any music streaming services. I do, however, have a subscription to iTunes Match because I find it far more useable to me as I can stream to my laptop, mobile devices without having to physically store the music on those devices. Will the HomePod work either as being able connect directly to my Mac that has all of the songs in the Library, AND/OR be able to work with iTunes Match where I can route the streaming music from any device to the HomePod? Does it have Bluetooth to be a Bluetooth speaker? I don’t know the answer to these because Apple’s announcement was vague and so is their website. It would be nice if they mentioned what it really can do other than being vague. I think sometimes either they are too vague on product information or sometimes they omit the obvious feature that will create a higher demand.

    If this thing sounds as good as the initial reviews and I can play music directly from my Mac through WiFI, Bluetooth, or from iTunes Match, then I’m all in. I’ll take one instantly if it does sound great. If not, then that’s a lost opportunity for Apple and myself. Then I have to look elsewhere or wait until Apple addresses the needs of a long term customer.

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