Why Prime Video and YouTube apps for Apple TV are so bad

The Rajam Report highlights various reviews of the YouTube and Amazon Prime Video apps built for Apple TV. At the core are the complaints that the interface does not feel like a traditional Apple TV app, that they do not feel like they were written for Apple TV.

But why?

Take a look at this chart:

Those numbers are sales estimates. Pavan Rajam asks this question:

If you’re Amazon, Hulu, or YouTube, what incentive do you have to invest in a high quality tvOS app when it addresses a mere fraction of your overall TV user base?

Read the whole article. I do think Pavan has his finger on the pulse here.

TechInsights: Apple’s HomePod costs $216 to build

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc.’s HomePod, the company’s first foray into speakers in a decade, costs $216 to build and generates thinner profit margins than other products like the Apple Watch and iPhone, according to analysis by TechInsights.

Given the HomePod’s $349 price, that $216 cost suggests Apple is generating margins of about 38 percent, according to the product analysis firm. That compares with margins of 66 percent and 56 percent for the Google Home and Amazon Echo, products that compete in the smart-speaker market, but offer lower audio quality, according to the firm’s estimates.

Margin is complicated. Lots of analysis goes into setting prices and, thus, determining margin. But it does seem reasonable to assume this is Apple entering a somewhat crowded market, wanting to keep their pricing relatively low (compared to their cost) to help raise demand.

The bulk of the HomePod’s costs come from the internal speaker technology, including the many microphones, tweeters, the woofer and the power management components. That adds up to $58, while an additional $60 includes various smaller parts like the lighting system used to display the Siri animation on the top of the device.

The HomePod’s A8 chip is estimated to cost $25.50, while the external housing and other items come in at $25. TechInsights also estimates manufacturing, testing, and packaging to add up to $17.50.

There’s clearly a lot more going on under the hood in a HomePod than in the much cheaper Google Home or Amazon Echo. If you haven’t already, I would definitely click over to the iFixit HomePod teardown and watch the video. I found it fascinating.

How to connect your Apple TV to HomePod, use HomePod Siri to control video playback

Terrific article from iMore’s Lory Gil. Long story short:

  • On Apple TV, go to home screen (this next step only works from the home screen).
  • On Apple TV remote, hold down pause button for 3 seconds or so.
  • When AirPlay menu appears, select your HomePod. This will route Apple TV audio to HomePod.

Now go play a movie. The audio should be coming out of your HomePod. If you are watching in front of your TV, this isn’t really ideal, but if you are moving around, perhaps working in the kitchen with a long view of the TV screen, this can be terrifically convenient.

Now that audio is piped into your HomePod, you can say things to HomePod Siri like:

  • Volume 60 (that sets the volume to 60%)
  • Pause (pauses the video playback)
  • Go back 20 seconds

Good stuff.

Apple Music to release “Cash Money” documentary Friday

[VIDEO] Billboard:

After numerous delays, Apple has finally confirmed that Before Anythang: The Cash Money Story will release on their Apple Music streaming platform on Friday. The Cash Money documentary will feature Bryan “Birdman” Williams narrating his childhood and what inspired him to change his life’s trajectory by launching the mythical label back in 1991.

Cash Money is home to prominent artists like Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj. An amazing, compelling story. Trailer embedded in the main Loop post.

Apple developing series called “Swagger”, based on life of NBA’s Kevin Durant


The series is inspired by Durant’s youth basketball experiences. It will explore the world of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball and the lives of the players, their families, and coaches.

The series will be produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television along with Durant’s Thirty Five Media. Durant and Grazer will executive produce, along with Imagine’s Francie Calfo and Thirty Five Media’s Rich Kleiman.

Eddy Cue is a huge basketball fan, a die-hard Golden State Warriors fan, and a fan and friend of Warriors’ star Kevin Durant. From this New York Times article:

Another incident that stirred an online reaction came when a fan stood up and seemingly shouted at Rihanna to sit down. Numerous commenters declared they found his behavior disrespectful.

Internet sleuths soon identified the man: Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services, who is a die-hard Warriors fan. Durant watched the election results last November at Cue’s house along with Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, and pop star Pharrell Williams.

This seems a natural fit. So much so, I wonder if Eddy Cue had a role in breathing life into this series. Personally, I hope this is the case. I think great passion can make the difference between bland and textured, between dull and riveting.

How to use Shazam with Siri on HomePod

If there’s music playing and there’s a HomePod in the room, chances are that music is coming from HomePod. But there may be times when you’ve got some background music coming from another source (your TV, say) and you want to identify the tune.

I am used to asking Siri on my iPhone to identify background music. Typically, I’ll fire up Siri and say:

What song is this?

But trying to get HomePod Siri to identify a song playing in the background proved tricky. I tried everything I could think of. No dice.

Fortunately, 9to5Mac’s Benjamin Mayo figured this out. To ask HomePod’s version of Siri to identify a background song, say:

Hey Siri, Shazam this.

Works every time. Weird to me that none of the more standard ways work. I hope we don’t end up with a Siri dialect problem, where users have to remember which command works on which version of Siri.

How to AirPlay audio from your Mac to HomePod

One piece of FUD I encounter again and again is that you can’t play competing streaming services, such as Spotify, on your HomePod.

There is an element of truth there, as Apple Music is currently the only first class citizen on HomePod. But you can AirPlay pretty much anything you can play on your Mac or iOS device to HomePod. Even Spotify.

What you lose when you AirPlay to HomePod is the ability for Siri to control the music. Though you can ask Siri to change the volume (“Siri Volume 25” to set volume at 25%, for example), you can’t get Siri to pause playback or skip to the next track. With AirPlay, you’ll need to use your iPhone or Mac to control the flow.

I wonder what magic is cooking for AirPlay 2. Will AirPlay 2 give Siri the ability to control track flow? If so, will Apple enable that gift for Spotify?

For the specifics of AirPlay on your Mac, MacRumor’s Juli Clover has your back.

iFixit’s brilliant HomePod teardown

[VIDEO] Not sure how long iFixit has been posting teardown videos, but this one (embedded in the main Loop post) is the first I’ve seen. Brilliant to be able to watch someone tear this tech down to the nubs.

So much to learn about the work and material that goes into HomePod. That outer mesh is magical. I wonder how they manufacture it.

One thing that is clear: This sucker is tough to take apart. It’s no wonder Apple charges $279 to repair or replace a broken, out-of-warranty HomePod.

Apple adds three new videos to their official iPhone photography page

[VIDEO] The videos (embedded in the main Loop post) are:

  • How to shoot a Portrait selfie on iPhone X
  • How to edit a Portrait selfie on iPhone X
  • How to create a bouncing Live Photo on iPhone

All three are found on Apple’s official iPhone photography page. If you’ve never explored that page, take a minute to look it over. Lots of helpful tips.

This is excellent marketing on Apple’s part, the first two a subtle and, I think, effective push towards the iPhone X.

How Apple plans to root out bugs, revamp iPhone software

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple’s annual software upgrade this fall will offer users plenty of new features: enabling a single set of apps to work across iPhones, iPads and Macs, a Digital Health tool to show parents how much time their children have been staring at their screen and improvements to Animojis, those cartoon characters controlled by the iPhone X’s facial recognition sensor.

But just as important this year will be what Apple doesn’t introduce: redesigned home screens for the iPhone, iPad and CarPlay, and a revamped Photos app that can suggest which images to view.

These features were delayed after Apple Inc. concluded it needed its own major upgrade in the way the company develops and introduces new products. Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year.

Read the rest of the article for details, but can’t help but see this as a significant move in the right direction, assuming it is true.

Reddit audiophile thread: “The HomePod is 100% an audiophile grade speaker”

This is not frivolous opinion. There is a lot of detail on both the tools used to measure things like “Fletcher-Munson loudness compensation”, and the measurements themselves.

From the conclusion:

The Look and feel is top notch. The glass on top is sort of frosted, but is smooth to the touch. When I first reviewed the home pod, I noted that it was light. I was comparing it with the heft of my KEF speakers. This thing, as small as it is, weighs 5 lbs. Which is quite dense, and heavy for its size. The Fabric that wraps around it is study, reinforced from inside, and feels very good to the touch.


The Frequency response, Directivity, and ability to correct for the room all go to show that the HomePod is a speaker for the masses. While many of you in this subreddit would be very comfortable doing measurements, and room treatment, there is no denying that most users won’t go through that much trouble, and for those users the HomePod is perfect.

And caveats:

Because of the onboard DSP, you must feed it digital files. So analog input from something like a Phono is out, unless your Phono Preamp has a digital output which can then be fed to the HomePods in realtime via airplay, possibly through a computer. But you cannot give the HomePod analog audio, as the DSP which does all the room correction requires digital input.


Speaking of inputs, you have one choice: AirPlay. which means, unless you’re steeped in the apple ecosystem, it’s really hard to recommend this thing. If you are, it’s a no brainer, whether you’re an audiophile or not.


As a product, the HomePod is also held back by Siri. Almost every review has complained about this, and they’re all right to do so. I’m hoping we see massive improvements to Siri this year at WWDC 2018. There is some great hardware at play, too. What’s truly impressive is that Siri can hear you if you speak in a normal voice, even if the HomePod is playing at full volume. I couldn’t even hear myself say “Hey Siri” over the music, but those directional microphones are really good at picking it up. Even whispers from across the room while I was facing AWAY from the HomePod were flawlessly picked up. The microphones are scary good — I just hope Apple improves Siri to match.

And from the rollup at the top of the post:

am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

I don’t have the expertise to speak to the audiophile comments, but everything else in the post clicks for me, jibes with my HomePod experience.

As to the negatives, I think Apple has done a great job of making sure the hardware is top notch. Which means they can fix the software negatives via updates over time.

Me? I absolutely love my HomePod. If you love music, and are willing to pony up for Apple Music, it’s a no-brainer purchase.

How a low-level Apple employee leaked some of the iPhone’s most sensitive code

Last week we posted about the iOS 9 iBoot source code leak that was headlined to be the biggest leak in history.

Motherboard has followed up with details on the leak itself:

A low-level Apple employee with friends in the jailbreaking community took code from Apple while working at the company’s Cupertino headquarters in 2016, according to two people who originally received the code from the employee. Motherboard has corroborated these accounts with text messages and screenshots from the time of the original leak and has also spoken to a third source familiar with the story.

Motherboard has granted these sources anonymity given the likelihood of Apple going after them for obtaining and distributing proprietary, copyrighted software. The original Apple employee did not respond to our request for comment and said through his friend that he did not currently want to talk about it because he signed a non-disclosure agreement with Apple.

To me, this is theft, clear as day. Not sure if Apple will go after the leakers, but if I were those leakers, I’d get some sound legal advice.

At what age do you form the strongest attachment to particular music?

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, New York Times:

When do the strongest adult musical preferences set in?


For this project, the music streaming service Spotify gave me data on how frequently every song is listened to by men and women of each particular age.


Consider, for example, the song “Creep,” by Radiohead. This is the 164th most popular song among men who are now 38 years old. But it is not in the top 300 for the cohort born 10 years earlier or 10 years later.

Note that the men who most like “Creep” now were roughly 14 when the song came out in 1993. In fact, this is a consistent pattern.

I did a similar analysis with every song that topped the Billboard charts from 1960 to 2000. In particular, I measured how old their biggest fans today were when these songs first came out.

I was about 11 when I first really latched on to music, 12 when I got my hands on my first guitar. And by 14, I was deeply immersed in what would become my forever comfort music.

Fascinating article.

Apple’s HomePod how-to videos, and what happens when a video says “Hey Siri”

[VIDEO] Apple posted this series of videos (embedded in the main Loop post) over the weekend. All three are about a minute long and, if you’ve got a HomePod or one in your future, they’re worth watching.

Side note, as part of walking you through the specifics of how to use Siri with HomePod, this first video says “Hey Siri”, followed by a command. Being my inquisitive self, I replayed the video a few times sitting in a room with my HomePod, just to see what would happen.

Sure enough, my HomePod picked up on the commands, though not nearly as cleanly as if I spoke the same words. I know that the Amazon Echo filters out some Alexa occurrences. I wonder if Apple does something similar, or if the voice quality coming out of my MacBook Pro speakers is not nearly as clear as my voice.

Two video HomePod reviews

[VIDEO] The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern and the Verge’s Nilay Patel each posted their take on Apple HomePod. Both of these are informative and worth watching. Both videos are embedded in the main Loop post.


Many Siris

Brian Irace:

If the Lyft app is installed on your iPhone, you can ask Phone Siri to order you a car. But you can’t ask Mac Siri to do the same, because she doesn’t know what Lyft is. Compare and contrast this with the SDKs for Alexa and the Google Assistant – they each run third-party software server-side, such that installing the Lyft Alexa “skill” once gives Alexa the ability to summon a ride regardless of if you’re talking to her on an Echo in your bedroom, a different Echo in your living room, or via the Alexa app on your phone.

This is a major difference in approach between Alexa and Google extensions, which both use a server-side approach, and Siri, which runs extensions client-side. In a nutshell, Siri’s approach allows for a more custom and, at the same time, limited approach, using communication and negotiation between devices to work out what’s what.

Currently, this communication seems limited to which Siri should respond to a request. If you lift your wrist and say “Hey, Siri”, your Apple Watch gets priority. If your HomePod Siri is enabled and your wrist is down, HomePod gets priority. You get the idea.

What’s missing is an intelligent mesh of negotiation and handoff. For example, if HomePod gets a request to make a phone call, that request should be handed off to your iPhone, perhaps verifying the handoff with a “Would you like me to make that call on your iPhone?” first.

There are permissions issue to deal with in this kind of scheme, but it certainly seems a logical need. If I ask HomePod to call a Lyft and HomePod doesn’t have that capability, seems logical for HomePod to hand that task off to another device that can order one for me.

All that said, I can only imagine that Apple is hard at work on a solution for this Siri mesh issue.

UPDATE: I left the word extensions out of the original writeup. Siri is server side, but the extensions are client side. I’ve not actually built a Siri extension, so I’m on shaky understanding here, but I believe this is correct.

HomeKit power strip

Jesse Hollington, writing for iLounge, reviews a HomeKit-enabled power strip that provides three independently-controlled AC outlets plus three USB charging ports. This seems a pretty easy entry point to start exploring HomeKit, and a nice HomePod companion.

Siri, turn on the lights.

What you can and can’t restore through an iOS backup in iTunes

Glenn Fleishman, Macworld:

iTunes backups of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch don’t contain apps and some kinds of media. They contain settings and certain kinds of documents stored within apps, and may contain images stored in an iOS device’s Camera Roll. Some apps that use iCloud or other cloud-based sync mark their local content as not needing to be backed up, since it can be restored by logging back into an account or resyncing.

Confused? Fair enough. What does and does not get backed up, and where various elements do get backed up, is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Glenn Fleishman does his best do lay all this out.

My two cents? Backup your music library, photos, critical documents on removable media, store it somewhere safe. Update that backup periodically.

Apple’s official HomePod user guide

There a HomePod in your future? This is an invaluable resource you might want to spend a little quality time digging through.

Seems to me, Apple should put a link to this guide on their main HomePod page, make it a bit easier to find.

How to stream the 2018 Winter Olympics on iPhone, iPad, Mac & Apple TV

Have you cut the cord? Interested in the Olympics, but don’t have access to the channels that carry them? This is definitely worth the read.

If you live in the US, don’t forget that you can get your local channels, in high-def, over-the-air via an antenna, at least in most locations.

The games have officially started, and the Opening Ceremony will be replayed tonight during prime time. Here’s a link to NBC’s official Olympics site.

Have a look at 157 new emoji, coming this year, and a Super Villain issue

[VIDEO] Enjoy the run through of the new emoji.

One thing that I did find puzzling about this video (embedded in main Loop post): About 30 seconds in, you’ll see emoji for Super Villains and Super Heroes. The difference? Super Villains wear pink and purple. Super Heroes wear red and blue.

Not crazy about this path. Associating specific colors with good and evil is, to me, the first step down a bad road. Maybe make the Super Villains distinctive in some other way?

To be clear, these were mockups crafted by Emojipedia, not from Apple, so hopefully the final Apple versions will follow a different path.

Motherboard: Key iPhone source code gets posted online in ‘biggest leak in history’

Nope. Nope. Nope.

I hate headlines like this. Biggest leak in history? Come on.

Here’s where the reaction comes from:

Someone just posted what experts say is the source code for a core component of the iPhone’s operating system on GitHub, which could pave the way for hackers and security researchers to find vulnerabilities in iOS and make iPhone jailbreaks easier to achieve.

The GitHub code is labeled “iBoot,” which is the part of iOS that is responsible for ensuring a trusted boot of the operating system. In other words, it’s the program that loads iOS, the very first process that runs when you turn on your iPhone. It loads and verifies the kernel is properly signed by Apple and then executes it—it’s like the iPhone’s BIOS.

This is true. It’s also true that Apple filed a copyright takedown and GitHub removed the post. But that’s a side note. Important, but a side note.

Buried down in the Motherboard article is this nugget:

This source code first surfaced last year, posted by a Reddit user called “apple_internals” on the Jailbreak subreddit.

This has been known about for some time. It’s iOS 9 source code and, while it’s likely true that some of that source code remains in iOS 11, Apple has known about this for long enough that they’ve certainly made any necessary changes to limit their exposure. I’d suggest that this GitHub publication had more value to the original poster and to Motherboard than to the anyone trying to hack the current version of iBoot.

And that said, I hope I’m right about this.

Apple, Apple TV, and their original content strategy

This post from Pavan Rajam is long, well researched, and insightful, well worth the read if you are interested in Apple and their pursuit of the TV market.

Just a bit from the report:

Content development and production are not things Apple has done before. Will these shows even be good? Based on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu’s progress on this front, success is possible but not guaranteed.


In the current market, content is used to differentiate services, not hardware. Amazon, for example, uses original content to drive Prime subscriptions. It could care less whether you watch it on a Fire TV or another device.


If growing Services revenue is a high priority, will this original content be available on non-Apple platforms (like Apple Music on Android, or iTunes on Windows)?

Those are just a taste of a much bigger picture. Great read.

Apple Watch is a huge success. I think HomePod will follow a similar path.

Apple Watch shipments beat expectations, topping 18 million in 2017, up by more than 54% on 2016. The Series 3 was the key growth driver, as total shipments of the latest version of Apple’s Watch were just under 9 million, making up nearly half of all shipments in 2017. Apple’s Q4 performance was impressive in itself, as shipments grew by more than 32% over Q4 2016 to 8 million, the highest ever number of shipments in a single quarter, not just for Apple, but for any wearable vendor.

I recognize that these are vastly different products, but Apple’s success with Apple Watch after much skepticism from the market reminds me strongly of the imminent rollout of HomePod.

The early watchOS experience is quite different from what we’ve got today. Complications (the hot spots on the watch face that update with things like notifications, current weather, etc.) and Activities integration are but two major changes that rolled out over time and significantly changed Apple Watch’s usefulness.

What’s critical to me is that those changes rolled out as free software updates. And they work on the original hardware. I have on my wrist a Series 0 Apple Watch (the very first publicly available model) and it works with the latest rev of watchOS. It can be a bit slow at times, but other than that, it works perfectly.

The point is, Apple Watch at birth was almost nothing like what we have today. And I believe the same thing will be true for HomePod. Yes, there are limitations on what we can get from Siri today, limitations on what and how we connect to HomePod. But I believe a year or two will bring a sea change of improvements and functionality. And I believe those changes will continue to work on the existing hardware.

Eddy Cue on not carrying a wallet and keys and Apple Music for Artists

Eddy Cue took the stage for an Apple Music Q&A at Variety’s Pollstar conference:

Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of software and services, says the goal is for everyone to have nothing in their pockets.

Well, other than an iPhone, he said, laughing.

Demonstrating the seemingly small but life-changing tech Apple is known for, Cue explained how he goes to work without even carrying keys or a wallet. “Not having keys to anything is really nice,” Cue said. “It’s simple, but it’s a big deal.”


“Anytime you want to purchase something, the number of clicks, the number of things you have to do, you see dropoff,” Cue said. “Depending on how many there are, there are always huge dropoffs. With Apple Pay, you see something you want, you basically do the face ID and you’re done. It’s very easy to complete the transactions.”


“For us, one of weirdest things in the music industry is the lack of transparency,” Cue said. “One of things that we want to do, specifically when we think from an artist point of view, we want to make information available to them as we have, so they can see what is actually happening,” Cue said. “Obviously it’s great for live because you can see where your fan base is, but it’s great for marketing. You can see the effects of what you’re doing basically in near-real time,” such as being on an A-list playlist.

Eddy also talks about the live concert experience and bringing that to more people. Interesting post.