If there's one Apple product over the past few years that's been
something of a disappointment, it's the HomePod. Apple's smart
speaker had a ton of potential when it was unveiled at WWDC 2017, but by the time it arrived in
February 2018, it was overpriced and underwhelming.
Now Apple is taking steps to right the HomePod ship. Apple has
reportedly re-hired HomePod engineer Afrooz
Family, who left the company in 2016 to co-found Syng, a high-end
audio company that sells a $1,799 Triphonic speaker. According to a
Bloomberg report, Family was tapped to lead Apple's HomePod
software efforts as the company looks to get its smart speaker
ambitions back on track.
There have been persistent rumors that Apple is working on a
new HomePod with a display, so Family's hire could be related to
the development of a new device. Family's expertise is in audio,
but he is no stranger to high design and high-tech innovation. The
Syng Space app, for example, uses an intuitive
drag-and-drop interface to test speaker placement and integrates
with Spotify and AirPlay 2.
After launching the $99 HomePod mini alongside the iPhone 12 last
year, Apple discontinued the larger HomePod earlier this
year. However, despite adding a few features to Home pod mini in
iOS 15 and promising lossless and spatial audio support,
it has yet to deliver a true killer feature for HomePod other than
Family's new position could change that with a focus on features
and a close collaboration with the Siri team. Without a visual
interface, HomePod is dependent on Siri for navigation and
functionality, and any feature Family integrates will need to start
with Siri, even if HomePod eventually gains a screen.