Apple just introduced the HomePod. Its Apple’s idea of a “better mousetrap” than Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home smart speakers. You can buy an Amazon Alexa Echo Dot for $39.95. An Apple HomePod is $349.00.
All three devices are SmartSpeakers (a new buzzword). They do the same thing – provide music through their speaker systems and are digital assistants – like asking them, “What’s the weather like outside right now?” Or, “What are the Olympic standings right now?”
To “hear” the difference an additional $310 gets you, you need to listen to the HomePod. Apple engineers spent over 7 years developing the HomePod and the result is exceptional sound. Music (and voice) is clear, crisp, not muddled or dampened. It almost seems that you can hear or sense the different layers present in the most well-recorded music. The HomePod has seven tweeters, a 4″ sub-woofer, and 6 microphones – that can pick up a whispered “Hey Siri” command from across a room – even with rock music turned up high.
In the next few months, Apple will release a software update for IOS devices that will enhance AirPlay to AirPlay 2. This software will allow multiple devices to play to multiple speakers with variable volume levels and additionally play your favorite music throughout the house or just in specific rooms. Apple will license AirPlay 2 to other speaker and headphone makers.
Now for the elephant in the room – Siri. The good news is that Siri works well, especially with music commands, questions, and information about the song, album, track, and even “Siri, who is playing drums on this track?” type questions. As mentioned above having 6 microphones and her ability to pick your voice – even softly – or at a distance is really amazing. Of course, she knows the answers to millions of questions and dozens of commands. Home automation electronics like door locks, thermostats, lighting – all work with Siri spoken commands if the device supports Apple HomeKit software.
HomePod works best if you are an Apple “person.” If you have an iPhone, or iPad, or Apple TV you are going to have no problems with setup and day-to-day use. To select and listen to music you need to have a subscription to Apple Music.
As always Apple will provide over-the-air software updates that increase the value of HomePod and add new features that will make us drool.
What! Seniors spending money on a music subscription?
No way! Just a few years ago I worked at Barnes & Noble in what was then called “the music department.” Seniors would come in and look over the bins of CD’s for the musical genre they liked and then grumble as the paid $14.99 each for the two or three CD’s that they would purchase and take home. In the three years that I worked in “the music department,” I noticed that the number of bins containing CD’s was dramatically shrinking as more and more people were turning to digital music.
A lot of seniors love music, but are limited in what available funds they can spend on entertainment like books, magazines, movies – and of course music. Many times while working at B&N I heard seniors express that they really wanted that new release, or that fourth CD but they “better not.”
Along comes iTunes…
Apple’s iTunes software, which runs on Mac’s and Windows PC’s, has been around for several years. It’s a great way to organize your digital music and videos. Of course you could “RIP” the music CD’s you already owned to iTunes – all perfectly legal – and enjoy them on your computer with a good stereo sound system or “SYNC” them to a mobile device. That is if you understood how to “RIP” and “SYNC.” A lot of seniors didn’t “get it.”
Along comes Pandora….
For seniors, who really embraced digital e-readers (like the Barnes & Noble “Nook,” or the Amazon “Kindle,” they migrated to more advanced digital devices like iPhones, iPads, Samsung/Nooks, and Kindle Fires that include the ability not only to read digital books, but also to listen to digital music and watch digital movies. One of the first, and still one of the most successful music apps is Pandora. It has that magic senior word “FREE!” and gives the listener the ability to pick a performer, song, or album and create a “station.” For example I could have a Moody Blues “station.” Pandora will play a Moody Blues track every third or fourth song – plus then fill in artists that are very similiar to the Moody Blues. All for “FREE!” if you don’t mind an advertisement every quarter-hour or so. I could have dozens of stations to accomodate my eclectic taste in music!
The come and they go…
Over the last five years there have been well over a dozen music services that have come and gone. Some free, some paid. All of them trying to find the magic formula that would attract millions of music lovers world wide to come to their mecca of music. Some of them came from pretty big name brands you know, and some brands you never heard of before – or after. Undoubtedly the most successful to-date has been an app and music service called Spotify. There is a free version (ad supported) and a paid version (no ads) of Spotify.
Now comes Apple Music…
A few months ago Apple introduced a new music subscription called (naturally) Apple Music. The service provides access to over 43,000,000 music tracks – and also music videos – all for just $14.99 per month. The monthly charge allows you to share the service with up to six family members (spouses, kids and grandkids included!). It’s just $9.99 per month for an individual subscription.
Here is the good news…
Millions of music songs and albums to choose from. All your favorite artists, and all your loved genres! Easy to create playlists.
Music can be streamed over WiFi or cellular and also downloaded for off-line listening.
Each family member can have their own music library.
Apple Music works on MOST newer iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, Mac’s and Windows PC’s. It does not currently work on Android devices but Apple has announced that it will with a forthcoming App.
It also works (like magic!) on the latest Apple TV streaming devices (version 4). The advantages of working on Apple TV is that you can watch music videos on that big new 75″ 4K Ultra High Definition flat panel TV that Santa will try to stuff down your chimney.
Of course there is a little bad news…
If you cancel your subscription all the music goes away (remember you are only renting it).
No you cannot “burn” the music to a CD.
The Apple Music software is a little clumsy to use for the first few days – until you find your way around the icons.
But it’s $14.99 per month you say…
It amazes me how many people (not only seniors) grumble that they don’t want to pay $14.99 per month (or just $9.99 if you don’t want to share) for a music subscription, but they paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the best smartphone, best tablet, best computer or best flat panel TV that money can buy. They think nothing of spending $7.99 – $14.99 (and up) per month for NetFlix, Hulu or HBO Now. They will still spend $14.99 each for CD’s – but are reluctant to purchase a music subscription – which can be easily cancelled.
“Just Do it!”…
As Nike would say “Just Do It!” – the first 3 – months are FREE (and is easy to cancel). Learn more by going to CLICK Here…
A final note…
As a senior (almost 70) and a tech weenie and geezer I think I speak with authority and experience on personal technology for seniors. I’ve been messing with personal computers since 1978. Comments – both pro and con are aways welcome. Thanks for reading my blog.