Intego Mac Podcast, Episode #179: Google, iOS Security Updates, and the End of the Original HomePod

Google is sued for its incognito browsing mode. iOS security updates may be delivered more frequently. We look at how easy it is to take over someone’s SMS messages. And we discuss the demise of the original HomePod.

Subscribe to The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

12 Ways to Open Files on a Mac

You open files every time you work on your Mac, most often, probably, by double-clicking them. But did you know that there are lots of different ways to open files? You can use your mouse, your trackpad, or even your keyboard. You can open files in windows, from menus, and from dialogs. Here are a dozen ways you can open files on a Mac.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Opinion: Apple Discontinues the HomePod; Is That the End for Apple and Home Audio?

Apple has announced that the company is discontinuing the original HomePod, and, for now, it is only available as long as stocks last. At the same time, the HomePod mini will still be sold, and Apple told TechCrunch:

HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. […] Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.

It’s undeniable that the original HomePod was too expensive, and its audio wasn’t ideal for everyone. In my review of the HomePod, I said that “when the HomePod sounds good, it’s great, but it doesn’t always sound good.” This is because it works well with certain types of music – mostly bass-heavy pop and hip-hop – but doesn’t offer any EQ settings. And when you set up a stereo pair, which sounds much better than twice a HomePod, you don’t even have settings to adjust the left-right balance between them.

Apple sold the original HomePod as a device offering superior sound, but the HomePod mini is totally different: it is a smart speaker that highlights the smarts, not the speaker. As a Siri device, it’s small and unobtrusive, and as a music device, it’s good enough for most people.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Apple Discontinues the HomePod: Here’s Why

Just over three years after Apple introduced the HomePod, the company is discontinuing the device. Overpriced, underpowered, a combination of trying to hard and not delivering, the HomePod has its fans and its detractors. My first listening experience showed me that the when the HomePod sounds good, it’s great, but it doesn’t always sound good. One problem with the device is that it is too bass-heavy, and there are no EQ settings, as there are with similar devices, such as Sonos’ excellent Sonos One speakers.

In my more extensive review, I pointed out how the HomePod does have good sound – at times – but, as a smart speaker, it was limited by Siri. Apple improved its Siri features over time, but the HomePod was still overpriced, especially compared to the Sonos One, which offers similar sound quality at a much lower price.

A few months after the release of the HomePod, I wrote about why the device wasn’t successful. To start with, it was too expensive: at $349, that’s the price of a much more refined audio device. (Apple did eventually reduce the price to $299, but this is still too much.) Apple didn’t release AirPlay 2 right away, which hampered the device’s functionality a bit. When they did, and you could combine two HomePods into a stereo pair, this offered sound that was much better than twice a HomePod.

But even after that, it was clear that the HomePod was a missed opportinity. I believe that Apple made a number of mistakes with this device. Aside from the price, it wasn’t clean what the HomePod was for. I wrote:

Is it a Siri device, or is it speaker that provides “consistent high-definition sound?” If it’s the former, then Apple is trying to sell this to people who already have at least one Siri-capable device. If it’s the latter, well, Apple’s crack marketing team came out with lots of great adjectives, but the overall opinion among audiophiles is that it’s meh.

While the HomePod has fancy technology, I feel that this is wasted:

Apple touts the HomePod’s ability to adapt to any location. “Equipped with spatial awareness, HomePod automatically tunes itself to give you optimal sound — wherever it’s placed.” This may be true, but it’s a mono speaker; the only adjustments it’s going to make are to the tone of the music, and, perhaps, to the output of the various tweeters (there are seven, in a circle).

And, above all, Apple tried to do too much with the device:

The company was falling behind in the smart speaker market, but they should have realized that they already have that market cornered: just say “Hey, Siri” to your iPhone (or Apple Watch, or iPad, or Mac…) And while their adaptive audio technology is impressive, it fails by not allowing users to choose the type of sound they want. By prioritizing the bass-heavy sound of rap and hip-hop music – the genre they push most in Apple Music – they created speakers that many people find unpalatable.

Curiously, Apple added an interesting feature to the HomePod just a few months ago: if you connect two HomePods to an Apple TV 4K, you can use them to play back Dolby Atmos sound. This is a compelling use case for the devices, but you can get soundbars that handle Dolby Atmos for less than a pair of HomePods.

The HomePod mini changed all that. Instead of focusing on audio quality, Apple focused on functionality, and they now provide a compact speaker with Siri, which is good enough for most people.

I think Apple fell into the trap of people who care about audio, thinking that everyone feels like they do. The vast majority of people are fine listening to music on cheap Bluetooth speakers, or ever from their phones, and paying that much for what might be better audio just doesn’t make sense. Yet people will pay the price of the HomePod for headphones, because they are more important when people are on the go: look at the success of Apple’s Beats headphones, and what seems to be a successful launch of the AirPods Pro.

Apple should have some good speakers in its product line; I would be interested in seeing an Apple soundbar, for example, but it would have to compete with Sonos, who has its Beam, costing only $399.

So Apple now has a product line whose only device is a “mini.” I expect this to stick around for a while, as its a part of Apple’s smart home strategy. Perhaps we’ll see another, larger HomePod in the future: maybe Apple is going all out with a HomePod Pro.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode #178: Everything You Need to Know About Batteries

The iMac Pro is at the end of its life, and we discuss future iMacs. We look at a change in terminology Apple will be introducing in podcasting. And we look at everything you need to know about the batteries in your Apple devices.

Subscribe to The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Everything You Need to Know About Batteries in Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

If there’s one thing we need to use our mobile devices and computers it’s power. Without it, these devices are just bricks. Managing power on mobile and portable devices has long been a balancing act between performance and comfort. You don’t want to cripple your devices by turning off too many useful features, but, depending on how you use your mobile devices, you may need to stretch the battery life as long as possible.

In this article, I’m going to tell you how batteries work on Apple devices, how long they last, how to optimize your battery use, when to use low power mode, and when to get a new battery for your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Use Activity Monitor to Troubleshoot Problems on a Mac

We never like to have problems with our computers, but they are inevitable. Sometimes some of your apps don’t work, your Mac gets slow, you get a spinning beachball, and more. Narrowing down the cause of such problems can be difficult; fortunately, macOS offers some troubleshooting tools you can use to diagnose what ails your computer.

One of the tools you can use to troubleshoot problems on a Mac is Activity Monitor, a dashboard for many of your Mac’s under-the-hood activities. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to Activity Monitor, and explain how this utility can help you find—and, in some cases, resolve—problems on your Mac.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Use private browsing to maintain your privacy on the web

You know that whenever you visit a website, a great deal of data is collected about you by the company running the website, and by third parties that track you to serve ads. The more you use the web, the more information goes into profiles that companies like Google and Facebook use to target ads that match your search terms, the types of websites you visit, and more.

While you can use an ad blocker to not see ads, and also to block some of the trackers used to follow you around, these tools aren’t 100% effective. But there’s another way you can maintain your privacy: you can use private browsing.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Use Content Caching on macOS to Save Bandwidth

If you have multiple Apple devices in your household, you know how annoying it can be when it’s time to update them. It can take a long time to get the latest macOS or iOS updaters, and if you have to download the same multi-gigabyte files for more than one iPhone, iPad, or Mac, your bandwidth can get saturated.

Content caching, a feature of macOS, can help. When you enable this on a Mac, that computer will keep copies of every installer and updater you download, along with apps from the iOS and Mac App Stores. Content caching can also cache some iCloud content, such as photos, and some documents.

Content caching is simple to use; here’s how to save time and bandwidth with content caching.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to choose the right Mac for your use case

Apple’s Mac product line has changed a lot recently, and if you’re looking for a new Mac, you have a number of options to consider. For some, it’s a simple choice, but for others, the choice can be more complex.

You may need a desktop Mac, and you currently have four options for that type of computer. If you want a laptop, then you have three options. But you might want to use a laptop on your desk as well, increasing the number of possibilities. In this article, I’m going to help you choose which Mac you need according to your use case.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.