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New HomePod Reviews Offer Hands-On Look at Sound Quality, Siri, and More

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Apple’s second-generation HomePod will start arriving to customers and launch in stores this Friday. Ahead of time, the first reviews of the smart speaker have been shared by select media publications and YouTube channels.


Priced at $299, the new HomePod features a virtually identical design as the full-size HomePod that Apple discontinued in March 2021, but with two fewer tweeters and microphones. The Siri-powered speaker is also equipped with a four-inch high-excursion woofer, an S7 chip for computational audio, and a U1 chip for handing off music from an iPhone. The speaker supports Matter for smart home accessories and Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos.

A new sensor in the HomePod can measure temperature and humidity in indoor environments, and this feature was also enabled on the existing HomePod mini with a recent software update. Sound Recognition will also be coming to the new HomePod with a software update this spring, allowing the speaker to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and send a notification to the user’s iPhone if a sound is identified.

The new HomePod can be pre-ordered on Apple’s online store, with white and midnight color options available. In-store availability and deliveries to customers will begin Friday, February 3 in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and 11 other countries and regions.

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Written Reviews

The Verge‘s Chris Welch said sound quality is very similar to the original HomePod:

After several days of listening to the new HomePod (both solo and in a stereo pair), I still think its sound signature remains true to the original HomePod. If you were a fan of that speaker, you’ll be satisfied with the second-gen version. Sure, you can hear subtle differences in how music is rendered when comparing both generations side by side with the same track. The newer HomePod might bring out a guitar solo with slightly more emphasis than the original. But the central traits are the same.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Nicole Nguyen also said the new HomePod sounds the same as the original:

The updated HomePod looks a lot like its discontinued predecessor—and sounds similar, too. I tested the new HomePod, as a single unit and grouped as a stereo pair, in a room that’s roughly 370 square feet. For most tracks, keeping the volume at 30% was enough to fill the space.

If you look at spec sheets comparing the old and new HomePods, you might scratch your head. The new one has a fast processor but fewer built-in microphones and speakers, and supports an older Wi-Fi standard. But in person, the new HomePod sounds and performs the same as the original.

Pocket-lint‘s Britta O’Boyle was impressed with the new HomePod’s sound quality too:

In terms of hardware, there are five tweeters, a “high-excursion woofer” capable of moving an impressive 20mm, and a four-microphone array. It’s a slightly different setup to the original HomePod – that had seven tweeters for starters – but the performance is equally excellent. Make no mistake, the HomePod (2nd generation) sounds fantastic.

In the midrange, you get vocals that are detailed, crisp and crystal clear, while at the lower end, the HomePod packs in plenty of bass. It’s lovely and deep for its size, while still offering expression and punch. It’s not as bassy as the Sonos Five – which is a bigger and more expensive speaker – and HomePod is arguably a little more muddled in the mid-range when playing tracks like Skrillex’s Rumble compared to the Five, but it is still very impressive overall – and that is a pretty tricky track to keep up with anyway. You can reduce the bass in the Home app, though we didn’t find this necessary.

Engadget‘s Billy Steele said that while Siri had several shortcomings when the original HomePod was released in 2018, the voice assistant has improved over the years. He also said the new HomePod’s two fewer microphones compared to the original did not impact Siri’s ability to detect his voice — even in a noisy room:

When we reviewed the original HomePod in 2018, one of our biggest gripes was with Siri’s limited abilities. Sure the speaker sounded good, but the lack of polish with the voice assistant made it seem like a work in progress. Apple has done a lot to improve Siri over the last five years, so a lot of those issues with the original have been fixed.

First, the HomePod, like Siri on your iPhone, is capable of recognizing multiple users. Personal Requests can allow it to peek at your Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Find My and more when you ask. Plus, HomePod can give each member of your family (up to six people) their unique responses from certain iPhone apps. What’s more, Siri can create recurring home automations without you having to pick up your phone and swipe over to the appropriate app.

Even with fewer microphones to pick up your voice, the new HomePod doesn’t suffer any performance setbacks. It’s just as capable as ever at picking out your voice even in a noisy room.

MobileSyrup‘s Dean Daley was impressed with Spatial Audio on the new HomePod:

A fantastic song to test out spatial audio is also one of my favourite tracks for karaoke, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It sounds decent at first, but after the “I see a little silhouette of a man” section of the song, the 2nd-Gen HomePod takes it to a whole other level, perfectly utilizing Dolby Atmos’ surround sound and spatial audio with harmonies and melodies to create an epic concert in the entertainment space. This was definitely my favourite song I tested out, and one I showed to several friends.

TheStreet‘s Jacob Krol touched on the new HomePod’s larger backlit touch surface:

The most significant design change lives up top and involves the screen. While there isn’t really new information being shown and the dream of a HomePod with a true display contains to be just that a dream, the top surface is larger. It gives one more control with tapping to play or pause among other controls and it can glow brighter, and larger in different colors.

Rather than having the volume controls appear after a touch like on the original HomePod, the “+” and “-” are now etched into this backlit touch surface which makes it easier to adjust the volume at a moment’s notice. When playing back music, the HomePod’s top will glow in colors that resemble the album artwork of what you’re listening to and when communicating with Siri it will glow with all of the colors you’d expect.

TechCrunch‘s Brian Heater tested audio handoff on the new HomePod:

Start a song with Apple Music on your iPhone, hold it near the HomePod and it will start playing there, accompanied by a satisfying haptic fist bump. Move the phone near the speaker again and you can transfer it back. I really like this feature. It’s a good example of how nicely hardware can play together if you make your own devices, software and chips. It’s also surprisingly receptive. In fact, I found myself having to disable it while the HomePods are on my desk, otherwise it will accidentally trigger when I’m using the iPhone two feet from the speakers.

Video Reviews and Unboxings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Redmi Note 12 Turbo teaser images reveal even more specs

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We already know that the Redmi Note 12 Turbo is on its way with an expected announcement time of 7 PM on March 28. We also already know quite a bit about the phone thanks to Weibo leaks and a visit to AnTuTu. A new set of teaser images has now surfaced online alongside some additional device specs.


Teaser images

Teaser images

Apparently, the Redmi Note 12 Turbo’s display will be 12-bit, support HDR10+ and feature a 120Hz refresh rate, 1920Hz PWM Dimming and SGS Low Blue Light Certification. Previous rumors have indicated a display diagonal of 6.67 inches and an FHD+ resolution. The phone will boast pretty thin bezels, measuring just 1.95mm on top, and 1.42mm on the sides of the display, with a 2.22mm chin underneath it and a 93.45% screen-to-body ratio. The phone’s entire body will measure 7.9mm in thickness and weigh 181 grams.

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The Redmi Note 12 Turbo is also rumored to offer a stereo speaker setup with Dolby ATMOS and Hi-Res Audio support alongside a 3.5mm audio jack. Also on board is an IR blaster. Confirming earlier rumors, the handset is expected to be among the first, if not the very first, to rock a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chipset, alongside up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 1TB of UFS3.1 storage. As per the new teaser, the chip will be cooled by a 3725mm² vapor chamber cooler.

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Teaser images
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Teaser images

Teaser images

In a rather conflicting report, the new source now claims that the Redmi Note 12 Turbo will feature a side-mounted fingerprint reader instead of an in-display one. Also on the list of expected specs is a large 5,000 mAh battery with 67W charging. The phone is expected to have a 64MP main camera with OIS, 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP macro shooter. It is also said to run Android 13 with MIUI 14 on top.

There is still no word on pricing and availability. Though, it is worth noting that the Redmi Note 12 Turbo is expected to launch under the Poco F5 branding in India on April 5.

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Why can’t I sync blocked numbers to a new Android phone?

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Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I don’t switch phones often, but when I do, I dread every single part of the process. Although Google has smoothed out some of the steps thanks to a more robust Android backup system and a new Fast Pair phone setup, a lot of tedious bits and pieces remain. It’s painful to re-pair wearables and Bluetooth accessories, adjust smart home gadgets to follow the new phone for geolocation automations, and sign into and re-customize apps to my liking. It can take a day and do all of that manually; what I can’t do, though, is transfer or sync my blocked numbers on my Android phone to a new phone.

And this little issue has been annoying me for a couple of years now. It baffles me that it hasn’t been fixed yet.

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I trust Google to identify some spam numbers on its own and stop them from disrupting me, but I also make an effort to report as spam and block any other spammers and unwanted numbers that slip through. Still, every year or so, I find myself answering calls and looking at messages from these same unwanted numbers just because the blocklist didn’t carry over when I switched to a new phone.

My blocked numbers list doesn’t carry over when I switch phones. I end up answering calls and reading messages from the same unwanted numbers.

Spam and phishing are massive problems in some countries like the US and India. In my experience, they’ve been less of an issue in France, but they were a major annoyance in Lebanon where GDPR and privacy rules don’t exist. Since I was a practicing pharmacist, my number was registered with the union and was shared, without my consent, with hundreds of pharmaceutical and not-so-pharmaceutical companies. Even two years after shutting down my practice, I still get dozens of unwanted messages every week on my Lebanese number.

With spam being such an annoying everyday occurrence, you’d think that all the tools would be at your disposal to fight it. And yet, Google is fighting it with Assistant call screening and massive data collection from millions of users to identify spam before it annoys you, but it’s forgetting one very simple trick that could save everyone extra headache: Just sync my list of blocked numbers on Android across phones.

Spam, phishing, and abuse are massive issues. I should only have to block a number once, but Google is trying to solve the problem differently.

Beyond spam, the issue gets worse when you imagine that an ex or an abusive person from your past keeps calling you or messaging you. You block them and think you’re done with that crap, only to see their number pop up again when you switch to a new phone. If we’re intentionally choosing to block a number or mark it as spam, we don’t want to find ourselves looking at that same number again, ever.

Here are three ways this problem can be fixed, from simple and manual, to complex and automatic:

  • Add a manual export and import button to the blocked numbers list in the Google Phone and Messages apps.
  • Treat the blocked numbers list like the call history and make sure it backs up and restores when users switch phones.
  • Synchronize the blocked numbers list with my Google account (maybe as a part of Google Contacts?) so that it’s always updated across all my devices.

Apple does the latter with iCloud. You block a number on your iPhone and it’ll be synced to your iPad, iMac, and every other device you use. Google could and should do it the same way. Sure, this isn’t as sexy as Assistant call screening, but no one wants to keep blocking the same numbers again and again.

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New film by Calgary’s Tank Standing Buffalo streams on HBO

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A Calgary animator’s newest cartoon started streaming Thursday night on HBO Max.

Tank Standing Buffalo’s MONSTR was one of eight animated shorts chosen from more than 1,200 submissions to be part of the HBO Max series Only You: An Animated Shorts Collection.

MONSTR deals with Standing Buffalo’s fight with inner demons while apprenticing with a northwest totem carver following the death of his wife Marsha.

“My partner Marsha died suddenly in my arms of a brain aneurysm,” Standing Buffalo said in a release.  “One moment she was there, the next she was gone. Without her, I was lost.

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“I left Calgary to walk the west coast until I couldn’t walk, and ended up on carver Phil Ashbee’s doorstep. He saw I was in trouble, and took me in. I began a tough year-and -a-half apprenticeship, learning from him and another carver. The teachings were harsh, but helped me to heal.

Tank Standing Buffalo’s next project MONSTR is part of an HBO Max program for animators

MONSTR takes place during my time with Phil, and brings to life how I confronted the grief of Marsha’s passing. It is my story, one only I can tell.”

Standing Buffalo worked with co-writer Xstine Coo, producer Amanda Miller and composers Cara Adu-Darko and Brandon Smith on the film, which features music by Walter MacDonald White Bear.

The film features the voices of Corey Feldman and Tristan Risk.

It’s Standing Buffalo’s third animated short, following RKLSS (2020), which screened at TIFF, and SAVJ (2021), which is currently being screened at a variety of film festivals.

HBO flew Standing Buffalo to Los Angeles for the Hollywood premiere of MONSTR Tuesday night.

Scene from MONSTR by Tank Standing Buffalo

In his artist statement, Standing Buffalo said art has literally saved his life – and his emergence as a rising animation star was launched by a scholarship he received to attend a Calgary animation workshop.

“I came to love animation six years ago when I received a scholarship through Quickdraw Animation Society in Calgary,” he said. “I am a person who thrives on routine and discipline. I appreciate the meditative repetition required to create animation.

“Through making my first two autobiographical shorts with monster and fantasy elements, I’ve found telling my story through animation is a form of time travel; my art is healing the person who I was in the past.”

 

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