I purchased the HomePod nearly two weeks ago, and today it went back to Apple. I still stand by a lot of what I said in my previous article. As a speaker, HomePod is fantastic device not just for sound, but for ease of use too. It’s going to be hard to find something that has such omni-directional, quality sound. The size of the HomePod is particularly impressive for what all it accomplishes. Best of all, the complete ease of use (especially compared to the traditional amp and speaker setup that may scare some users away) makes it as painless as possible.
All of that said, while HomePod is a great speaker, it just isn’t ready for my home yet. While Apple by no means lied about what functionality would come with it out of the box, some of the promised features like AirPlay 2 and Stereo Pairing (both announced at WWDC in June) are still missing. On top of that, there was a lot of mystery around what Siri would or wouldn’t do at launch. It wasn’t until I started reading reviews and eventually tried it out myself that I got to see how broken it is compared to Siri on virtually every other device.
Understand, I’m not by any means trying to say Siri is bad. I love it across most of my devices, and have outlined its many uses to me in the past. The Siri on HomePod, however, is crippled. No matter how you want to look at it, Siri on HomePod is lacking in a lot of ways that other Apple devices already can handle. A big issue for me was voice detection.
Siri on my iOS devices is trained to my voice, meaning if someone else in my house utters “Hey Siri,” my phone won’t pick up the request. HomePod has the same A8 chip as an iPhone 6, which is capable of the always-on “Hey Siri” (if the phone is plugged in). HomePod should be able to at least offer voice training, but to go a step further, it shouldn’t be too hard to still allow untrained voices to access music, but not my reminders and messages.
While HomePod is a great speaker, for me personally, I already have some speakers I’m happy with. Sure, they don’t have the omni-directional, room-filling capabilities of the HomePod, but on the grand scale, that’s not something I need just yet (especially not for the money, considering I already have speakers). All I’m really looking for is a device not unlike the Amazon Echo Dot, but with Siri, to plug into my existing speakers. Apple may not be making such a device anytime soon (if ever), but that would be my ideal scenario.
On the flip side, I certainly won’t say I’ll never buy a HomePod. As I said before, it is perfect for a specific market of people who don’t want to hassle with getting great sound. I still fit that market, but HomePod is going to need to do a bit more to win me back. I need AirPlay 2 and Stereo Pairing to get here, along with improvements to Siri. I’d love to see a price drop as well (though it does pack a lot into a small space for the money).
Basically, I don’t want to buy a HomePod based on future promises/expectations. Things I expect from HomePod may not be in Apple’s plan, and for that I don’t want to assume that will change. Instead, I’ll wait to see how HomePod plays out. I’d imagine like most of Apple’s products, the first generation keeps things very simple, while the second or third generation (be it software or hardware) tends to really sell the product. HomePod’s hardware shouldn’t need too many refreshes that often, so hopefully we’ll see some big software updates before too long to get me to try it again.