Apple Fail: The HomePod

Kirk McElhearn, MacWorld’s iTunes guy, delivers the definitive pan.

From Kirkville’s “The Problems with Apple’s HomePods“:

Apple released the HomePod in February, 2018, and the device has never seemed to catch on. There have been strong rumors recently about a HomePod 2 coming next year. But there are lots of problems with the HomePod, which Apple needs to address.

The HomePod is expensive. At $349, the price at launch, it was overpriced; at $299, its current price, it’s still not a good value. The HomePod costs $100 more than the Sonos One, which is a comparable, and some would say better speaker. (I think the Sonos One sounds better than the HomePod.) Apple was clearly targeting its core market, people willing to pay more for better products, but this isn’t a product that people are willing to pay more for, apparently.

The HomePod doesn’t have a clear use. Is it a Siri device, or is it speaker that provides “consistent high-definition sound?” If it’s the former, then Apple is trying to sell this to people who already have at least one Siri-capable device. If it’s the latter, well, Apple’s crack marketing team came out with lots of great adjectives, but the overall opinion among audiophiles is that it’s meh.

The HomePod doesn’t sound that good. Don’t get me wrong: it sounds fine, but not good enough. It’s better than pretty many Bluetooth speakers, but it doesn’t sound as good as it should for the price. It has a default sound signature that is very bass-heavy, which is not to everyone’s taste. And there are no EQ controls…

The HomePod’s fancy technology is wasted. Apple touts the HomePod’s ability to adapt to any location. “Equipped with spatial awareness, HomePod automatically tunes itself to give you optimal sound — wherever it’s placed.” This may be true, but it’s a mono speaker; the only adjustments it’s going to make are to the tone of the music, and, perhaps, to the output of the various tweeters (there are seven, in a circle). Apple has an animation on its website showing what the HomePod does, but what does this even mean? It’s a mono speaker…

My take: McElhearn goes on at length. A summary of his piece on Apple-friendly MacDailyNews drew a few defenders but mostly more complaints. Having lived for over a year with all three smart speakers (Google, Amazon, Apple), I’ll add one more: It’s even dumber than I expected, regularly failing to make sense of queries Siri on my iPhone handles with ease.

See also: Why Apple’s heart isn’t in HomePod

6 Comments

  1. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    We own two pairs of HomePods including a second pair recently purchased for use in our backyard. I consider the sound produced through the HomePods rich and satisfying. I haven’t experienced any of the stereo-pairing issues detailed in the referenced article.

    The impetus for purchasing the initial pair of HomePods was a desire for sound quality and adequate power to deliver room-filling sound. Impressed by what we experienced in the home, we purchased a second pair for use outside.

    I’m not interested in so-called “smart features” outside of querying Siri to deliver music chosen either from Apple Music’s massive catalog or from personal playlists. The HomePods were purchased solely to deliver high quality sound.

    Our two pairs of HomePods have exceeded our expectations for sound quality and overall performance.

    3
    August 24, 2019
    • John Butt said:
      We bought one, and found the sound to be poor, dull without real impact from placement. Then we visited the Melbourne store and heard a pair! We bought our second immediately and are very glad we did, they were a perfect replacement for the very poor Bose.
      The only use we have every made of Siri is for music, why on earth would you use it for anything else, there is no screen, subsequent queries require a super fast brain etc, Siri’s natural power is on the phone or airpods not a sound system where you want continuous music. The only change I would make is to the name Siri, to reduce confusion between devices, my watch/phone/MacBook often try to answer.

      3
      August 24, 2019
  2. Kathy Corby said:
    I suspect that I have found a use for my HomePods that very few other users have. I am an options trader, and require frequent mathematical calculations to be done through the trading day. However, I don’t need a calculator. It turns out that I can ask Siri, who resides across the room in a pair of HomePods, to do these calculations, and she is actually quite swift and always accurate.

    2
    August 24, 2019
    • Robert Paul Leitao said:
      Brilliant, Kathy. Simply brilliant.

      0
      August 25, 2019
  3. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    It’s my belief that the HomePod is one of Apple’s most misunderstood products.

    I have ten of them total scattered all around the house with four paired as stereo sets — two as singles. I am constantly enveloped by beautifully accurate sound, not only with music, but with spoken-word playback too.

    While I don’t consider myself a true audiophile, I have been an audio enthusiast for most of my life and — since introduction — the HomePod has generally been given misdirected criticism — as has Apple’s AirPods.

    A few years back, I was able to substantially upgrade my home audio gear, plowing good money into the basics — a clean strong-amp receiver and stereo speakers with a separate subwoofer. I went with the Bowers and Wilkins 805D monitor speakers (the intro speaker to the top-end models that they use at the Abbey Road Studios as playback reference).

    My purpose in selecting these (outside of budget limitations) was solely based on the quest for audio ACCURACY. True fidelity to the source of sound.

    As a result, I’ve been able to upgrade my audio experience and awareness with refined audio playback as close to what the recording engineers intended (or were limited to depending when recorded) as these speakers can allow all based on the belief that when you get closer to the true sound of music, it captures you emotionally. It touches your soul.

    It’s my strong opinion that, pound-for pound and at their price, HomePod is extremely accurate and fulfilling in sound reproduction — it’s main design objective. The same goes for Apple’s AirPods, one of the main reasons I believe that product has gone viral, yet barely mentioned in the press.

    What we forget is that, when most music playback went all digital (concurrently MOBILE), we got much closer to our music through sadly inadequate headphone playback. Also what we don’t realize was that initially the digital playback was in inferior MP3 low 128 bit-rate quality. We embraced the convenience, yet the audio accuracy — while enjoyable — suffered and an entire generation missed out on accuracy from birth.

    Apple probably couldn’t have engineered a better balanced sound from such a speaker-petite device to perform across the wide range of playback types that will be demanded from it wherever you place it. It’s size allows it to virtually disappear — it’s volume is plentiful — it’s sound is uncannily accurate even in the lowest volumes — not an easy task for ANY speaker — a testament to good amplification.

    A whole-house auditory experience for about three grand controlled from my watch?

    Count me in — and I’m loving it.

    1
    August 25, 2019
  4. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Oh yeah…one other comment. It has some readily useful smarts with Siri — not brilliant, but smart enough.

    0
    August 27, 2019

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