Apple’s debut smart speaker – dubbed the HomePod – unwraps Friday. Even for music lovers, this isn’t the Apple product for everyone.
Front page news:
Tomorrow, Apple throws its name in the smart speaker game, unveiling its rival product to the Sonos One, Amazon Echo and Google Home suite of products. Similar to these, HomePod acts as music player, personal assistant and smart home controller. Here are some notable specifics:
The Pros and Cons – Where the HomePod Shines:
Superb sound quality
Superior sound quality is the most compelling reason to purchase the HomePod. Powered by the same A8 processor as an iPhone, the tiny device combines Apple-engineered audio technology and advanced software to deliver high-fidelity sound in any room, anywhere it’s placed. “This elegantly designed, compact speaker totally rocks the house,” according to Apple. It sports a 4-inch, high-excursion woofer and 7 “beam-forming” tweeters. It is an acoustically superior piece of hardware when compared to rivals, so touts Apple CEO Tim Cook and early reviews. This is the top-of-the-market product, and one that is serious about sound.
Integration with Apple devices
For Apple users, set up and integration is a breeze. Once out of the box, the device sets up in seconds along side your iPhone. With it, you can use Siri to text friends, play music and set up timers and reminders, similar to Google Home products. While many native apps are supported, many, like Spotify and other 3rd party ones, are not. But for Apple device owners with an Apple Music subscription, this will be a dream device.
Messaging and calling is a breeze
Text messaging isn’t as easy as it should be on Amazon and Google devices. Apple leapfrogs over the two with easy messaging and calling capability to all the contacts on your phone without an app or the other being a HomePod user.
The Pros and Cons – Drawbacks of the HomePod:
Key features aren’t ready…yet
The biggest downside to the HomePod is its “work in progress” software status at launch. It currently doesn’t deliver on the full capabilities of competitor products just yet.
Two key speaker-critical features will be not functional at launch:
-The ability to pair two HomePods together
-HomePod’s ability to support AirPlay, which allows you to play music in different rooms
These features will be added with a software update(s) and is an easy fix.
Only works with Apple Music and Apple products (read: not for Android users)
While you can connect via your iPhone to music services like Spotify, to use Siri on the HomePod, you will have to subscribe to Apple Music to get full functionality. On my Echo device, I can listen to music using other services and do not have to be an Amazon Music customer. This is a major drawback.
In addition, you must have an iOS device to connect to HomePod. It cannot be used by an Android users or as a standalone Bluetooth device, limiting its appeal to non-Apple device users.
Siri is no Alexa
Much has been written about the smarts (or lack thereof) of virtual assistants. Tom’s Guide rated the top smart assistants in various categories, including: general knowledge, online shopping skills and more. The Google Assistant came in first with Siri lagging in many areas. It is a compelling reason not to cheat on Alexa with Siri.
Cannot distinguish between different voices
“Siri on the HomePod doesn’t recognize different voices. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you just click yes during all the setup prompts, literally anyone can ask the HomePod to send or read your text messages,” notes the Verge. Because of its access to your calendar, messages and other private information, the inability to distinguish voices creates a privacy concern.
Out of the box, the device is a solid piece of hardware. For Apple-devoted audiophiles willing to deal with the predictable kinks of being an early adopter of Apple releases, it could be worth the price tag for the first grab at this musical device. For the rest of us, you may be better served staying faithful to your smart speaker a little while longer.