New icons unearthed in the latest iOS 11.2.5 developer build suggest you can disable the always-listening microphones on Apple’s HomePod speaker. Apple had never explicitly listed that as a feature of its delayed smart speaker, even though it’s standard fare on speakers offered by category leaders Amazon and Google (and even Sonos). The discovery was first announced by Filipe Espósito on Twitter (via 9to5Mac).
While everyone loves the idea of room-filling compact speakers in their house, many are less enthusiastic about the idea of sprinkling internet-connected microphones around the home. Apple made a big deal about privacy, as it often does, at the unveiling of the HomePod in June, noting that nothing is sent to Apple until a “Hey, Siri” is detected locally on the device. After the magic phrase is heard, an anonymous ID is assigned and the request is encrypted before anything’s sent over the wires. All well and good, but that’s certainly not as private as shutting off the mics altogether.
The $349 Apple HomePod was originally supposed to go on sale in December for the US, UK, and Australia, but that date was revised to “early 2018” just before launch. Discovery of the HomePod icons would suggest that date to now be sooner rather than later.