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 audio quality.
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.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.