Apple’s WWDC 2019 presentation kicks off a weeklong conference Monday at 10 a.m. PT in San Jose, California. We’ll likely see the debut of , the new MacOS and even new hardware. In the background of all that anticipation is a lurking question about HomePod, HomeKit and the Siri-powered smart home. Does Apple still care about competing in that corner of the market?
Apple’s HomeKit platform and HomePod smart speaker are admittedly behind when it comes to intuitive smarts and useful features. Common complaints include the lack of support for third-party music services and far fewer smart home integrations. HomeKit is also siloed. you can’t use Siri or HomePod to control Google Nest products or Ring devices, both of which are popular with consumers.
Siri on HomePod isn’t at the top of the voice assistant podium, either, as she had trouble competing with Google Assistant and Alexa and can’t differentiate between multiple users’ voices. It’s doubtful we’ll see a bounty of updates to either, since this conference is typically MacOS and iOS-focused.
However, there are a few things Apple could do to breathe new life into its lackluster speaker, and they could be announced next week. Here’s a quick rundown of the rumors out there giving HomePod fans hope.
Multiuser voice recognition
This is something both Google and Amazon already include in their , and something Apple would be wise to quickly adopt. Right now, there isn’t a voice training option for HomePod users. That means anyone can say “Hey, Siri” and control your HomePod. Earlier this month, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman published an article with an extensive list of updates Apple planned to reveal, according to “people familiar with the plans,” and on that list was multiuser HomePod support.
Adding voice training creates a multiuser environment, where Siri can respond to purchase requests, calendar queries and anything else with personalized results to each member of the household. This feels like an easy update, given that Siri has been able to identify its owner’s voice since iOS 9, locking out other voices that don’t match. It doesn’t seem a stretch to add support for recognizing more than one person. That would add functionality and value to Apple’s HomePod experience, not to mention a layer of security for purchases via voice.
Ring integration for HomeKit is another piece missing from Apple’s smart home puzzle and something Ring and HomeKit users have been asking for year after year. Ring is one of the most popular smart home brands out there, and whenlast year, we feared Ring products might never make it to HomeKit.
Apple has since Twitter user posted a screenshot of Apple’s MFi Licensed Accessories webpage with the two Ring products categorized as HomeKit-certified.for companies to include a physical MFi security chip and instead adopted software-based authentication. That means more products are able to offer HomeKit compatibility without changing their hardware or raising retail prices, and it’s rumored the and could be ready for HomeKit rollout. A
Adding HomeKit compatibility to Ring products would make a lot of Ring and Apple fans happy. It could also mean more intuitive ways of answering your Ring doorbell and viewing camera feeds from the Home app, which brings us to our next wishlist item.
Updated Home app
Also on Bloomberg’s list of expected announcements is an updated Home app to accompany . If Ring comes to HomeKit (as it seems likely to do given that it appears to have passed certification) it makes sense to update the way the Home app works with security cameras and give Ring users the option to view camera recordings from the Home app.
With its HomeKit platform slowly but surely opening up to more manufacturers, Apple could become a big enough player to push companies to expand their free video clip storage, though Google and Amazon haven’t had much luck in that regard yet.
Regardless of what happens with video, an updated Home app seems like the least Apple could do to maintain the HomeKit platform. Apple’s Home app is fine, but Google’s Home app is more intuitive and better-looking. As complicated as the smart home can sometimes feel, Google offers a clean app that doesn’t feel cluttered. Apple needs to follow suit.
Apple for Android?
This one isn’t a rumor, but it’s an interesting possibility to consider. Could an updated Home app bring us a version for Android phones, too? Chances are slim, but opening up the platform even further would be a welcome change of pace. There are plenty of people out there (myself included) who live life with one foot in each camp, owning hardware from both ends of the operating system universe.
This one is not so much a rumor, but an item from my own personal Apple wishlist. There’s no concrete evidence that a HomePod in any smaller or more affordable form is on the horizon, and WWDC isn’t primarily a hardware-focused event. Still, I think Apple would be wise to see the value in a HomePod model that puts HomeKit and Siri in the homes of Apple users who don’t want to spend $300 on a smart speaker.
Google and Alexa’s smaller speakers prove that they can handle calling, music with good sound quality, voice commands and many other tasks as well as their larger counterparts per dollar. Apple shouldn’t fear the small smart speaker, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for a pint-size HomePod.
Of course, there’s always the chance of a surprise announcement be it hardware, software or streaming services. We’ll keep track of everything happening at WWDC and round it all up for you as the conference progresses.