Let’s get this out of the way: HomePod is the most disappointing product I’ve used in years.
When Apple’s HomePod smart speaker was unveiled last year, I was hopeful. Finally, Apple was jumping into the smart home market with a device that might deliver a better experience than my Echo and Home--two devices that, while nice, have their fair share of challenges. But then Apple started talking up the HomePod’s speaker and sound quality, and suggested its Siri virtual assistant integration only enhances the experience for the home.
It was at that point I feared we were in trouble. And now after using the device, I can firmly say that the HomePod is a half-baked overpriced “smart” speaker that has nice sound. No more, no less.
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Here are a few takeaways from my time with Apple’s HomePod:
Apple’s HomePod design is fine. But “fine” isn’t how I typically describe Apple products. My HomePod is the Space Gray version. It’s small enough to fit in any room and it’s certainly no eyesore, but it’s also not something I’d leave out for all my guests to see. Apple usually gets it right on design. With HomePod, it feels like Apple played it safe--and that’s unfortunate.
Look, the HomePod sounds better than any other smart speaker on the market, including my Amazon Echo and Google Home. It even sounds a bit better than the Sonos One. But when I say a “bit better,” I mean it. If you’re looking for a single speaker that will shock you with groundbreaking sound quality, the HomePod isn’t it.
Yes, the HomePod sounds great and yes, my music and podcasts played well on the device. But its sound quality isn’t something that can justify its lofty price tag.
Siri is so far behind Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant it’s becoming embarrassing for Apple. Siri lacks many of the basic skills I love from Alexa and sounds hilariously robotic against the continually improving Alexa. Countless times, I’d ask Siri for something simple, like telling me what I have on my schedule for the week, and I’d be told it couldn’t do that. Even worse, Apple’s virtual assistant is tied into the company’s slate of services, like Music, Notes, and others. If you’re something that likes Spotify or wants to use other calendaring services, for instance, you’re out of luck with HomePod.
Apple might say that HomePod is a home speaker first, but Siri is supposed to be what makes it useful throughout the day. That didn’t happen. And it was so bad that it forced me on numerous occasions to turn back to my Echo just to handle simple tasks.
At $349, Apple’s HomePod is substantially more expensive than the Amazon Echo you can buy right now on sale for $85. It’s also more expensive than the Echo Show, a device that comes with a touch screen and is on sale at Amazon for $180. If you want two great-sounding Sonos One devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa and soon, Google Assistant, you can get them for $349.
In other words, HomePod is overpriced. But when you combine that with a poorly performing Siri and a mediocre design, Apple’s HomePod feels like it’s trailing far behind its competition in nearly every way but sound quality.
As a longtime Apple user who’s firmly rooted in the “Apple ecosystem” of hardware and services, I wanted to like HomePod. But it became clear to me after just a few minutes of use that HomePod was a step back from my time with Amazon’s Echo and other devices.
Apple’s HomePod is too expensive, too hobbled by Siri, and too un-Apple-like to justify me recommending you buy it. Hopefully that’ll change in the future. But for now, stay away from Apple’s HomePod.
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