HomePod reviews: No unconditional love (videos)

Excerpts from the HomePod reviews I’ve seen. More as they come in.

Geoffrey Fowler, Washington Post: Five things to know before you buy an Apple HomePod. No matter how much boom-boom Apple packed into the $350 HomePod, it can’t make up for poor old Siri, which somehow became even more dopey. Inside this speaker, Siri can’t even do all the things it stumbles through on an iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac. The HomePod was years in the making and delayed months before it finally arrived Friday — yet it still feels like an unfinished product.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: HomePod. I’ve been testing Apple’s new HomePod for the last week or so, and this is the first product review I’ve written that could be accurately summarized in the length of a tweet, and an old-school 140-character tweet at that: HomePod does exactly what Apple says it does, doesn’t do anything more than what Apple says it does, and costs $349. There.

Nicole Nguyen, Buzzfeed: A Smart Speaker For iPhone Users OnlyThe HomePod is a Siri-powered speaker with powerful bass and killer features for iPhone users, but it has flawed “smart” functionality that falls short of its competitors.

Matthew Panzarino, A four-sentence HomePod review. [No. 2.] As a smart speaker, it offers best-in-class voice recognition, vastly outstripping the ability of other smart speakers to hear you trying to trigger a command at a distance or while music is playing, but its overall flexibility is stymied by the limited command sets that the Siri protocol offers.

Brian X. Chen, New York Times: Apple’s HomePod Has Arrived. Don’t Rush to Buy It.  Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it. Siri is sorely lacking in capabilities compared with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Siri doesn’t even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone.

James Titcomb, The Telegraph: Sounds better than it listens. Apple’s HomePod sounds superb. It also doesn’t play the radio.

Edward Baig, USA Today: Apple’s pricey HomePod sounds great but exacts some tradeoffs. Besides Apple Music ($9.99 per month), you can have Siri play music you’ve purchased through iTunes, but unless you also subscribe to iTunes Match ($24.99 a year), not the songs in your library that you may have ripped off CDs way back when or imported from some other source.

Megan Wollerton, CNET: Great sound, but it’s trapped in Apple’s world. Apple’s HomePod won’t slay Amazon Alexa out of the gate. But if you’re an iPhone user who prizes sound quality above all, you should seriously consider this speaker.

Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal: Super Sound, but Not Super Smart. Apple’s $350 smart speaker has a sensational voice but needs to work on its brain.

Nilay Patel, The Verge: Locked in. Unless you live entirely inside Apple’s walled garden and prioritize sound quality over everything else, I think you’re better served by other smart speakers that sound almost as good and offer the services and capabilities that actually fit your life.

My take: This device sounds like a work in progress.

See also: Ben Thompson: Most commentary gets HomePod wrong

8 Comments

  1. David Emery said:
    The limitations on Siri will be fixed as Siri gets more capable.

    But I’m particularly disappointed there seems to be no connection between HomePod and home automation. PED, I hope you have some home automation devices to try out. I have an extensive and relatively specialized music CD collection, and no interest in Apple Music. One connection I hope HomePod grows into is the ability to control AirPlay. That would be consistent with, I think, growth into home-based (vs cloud-based) features.

    1
    February 6, 2018
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      When critiquing SIRI people forget that it isn’t designed to replace internet searches as are Alexa and others. SIRI is designed to do, ie find content via Apple TV apps and manage devices (HomeKit), and manage controls (volume, channel selection, set timers, order Uber, buy tickets, etc). SIRI can check the weather and other static data bases, but doesn’t answer questions (requiring an internet search) well.

      I ordered one (arrives on the 9th), and when stereo is enabled will order a second.

      So far I have found HomePod reviewers to be just as ignorant as most market (Apple/AAPL) analysts. They don’t understand the importance of actually doing something vs looking something up. That HomePod’s sound is far superior to anything else costing twice as much, responds correctly in a noisy environment (something HomePod competitors can’t do), can be daisy chained into multiple rooms (each playing something different) and can play the audio from Apple TV programs, is way more important than a $100 price tag.

      And this is just the first iteration. The second (3rd and 4th?) iteration will be software based and backwards compatible will existing HomePods.

      1
      February 6, 2018
  2. David Emery said:
    One other thought: Has anyone seen a complaint about Alexa not supporting things outside the Amazon ecosystem, or Google Home not supporting things outside of Google-world?

    1
    February 6, 2018
  3. John Kirk said:
    Saying the HomePod is “trapped in Apple’s world” as Megan Wollerton does, is like saying the Eiffel tower is “trapped” in Paris. The HomePod serves the iPhone and the Apple Ecosystem. It’s not designed to sell HomePods anymore than Apple Music is designed to sell music. It’s designed to sell iPhones and the Apple ecosystem.

    It the reviewers do not understand Apple’s underlying business model, they will never understand AirPods, the Apple Watch, Apple’s services or…the HomePod.

    P.S. I can’t believe Nilay Patel is still using the derisive “Walled Garden” cliche. Apple has almost a billion devices on the market. That’s one damned big walled garden.

    6
    February 6, 2018

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