Apple has just announced (not available yet) its smart speaker, the HomePod. While this is certainly not the first smart speaker to make its way on the shelves, it is the first from the stable of the technology giant. And Apple has tried, time and again, that it doesn’t matter if you are not the first one to do something; you will be remembered the most if you bring out the best that there is. Let’s see if the Apple HomePod lives up to Apple’s mantra, and to the expectations of the thousands of customers. First, let’s take a look at what’s so great about the HomePod.
Pros of Apple HomePod
The design is cool: The HomePod is a cylindrical unit that looks like an enmeshed version of the Mac Pro, and is available in two colors; Space Grey and white. The colors are demure and tasteful, and will definitely look great in the den, sitting with the other entertainment devices. It is certainly striking to look at, but will blend in perfectly with the right kind of décor. Of course, it is not that good for carrying around, but then its purpose is to be used at home.
The acoustics are great: As far as the demo version shows, the HomePod is great with sound. The experience begins with the 3D mesh surrounding the speaker, which, according to Apple, was chosen for its great acoustic properties; in other words, it makes music sound better. The intelligent speaker also sends out the sound in all directions; so, if you are having a party and people are scattered all across the room, no one will complain of the music being too loud in some places and hard to hear in others. The music sounds loud and clear, and you can clearly pick out the different instruments playing in the song. In fact, the music sounds better than when played in Amazon Echo and Sonos Play: 3.
It’s highly convenient: The top of the Apple HomePod is touch sensitive, which means that you can regulate the volume and the music simply by tapping the device. Plus, the device will only wake up at the voice regulated “Hey Siri’ command, so no data will be transmitted until the speaker wakes up. It is also possible to create a multi-room system by connecting two HomePods together, or linking the speaker with another compatible device. It is even compatible with the iPhone; all you have to do is hold the two devices near each other, and the speaker will effortlessly play music from your iPhone.
Siri has some tricks up her sleeve: Siri is the voice of the device, so to speak. Like Amazon Echo and Sonos Play, you can ask Siri to play a particular song. But, unlike the aforementioned competitors, Siri will also answer questions about the song, like the name of the bass guitarist and the genre of the song. Check out our list of some cool HomePod siri commands.
It’s not just about the music: As emphasized by Apple, the HomePod is a smart device. Which of course means that its functionality extends beyond mundane music playing. The HomePod is all set to be the HomeKit ninja; by activating Siri with a voice command, you will be able to control all HomeKit enabled devices in your home without having to use the iPhone, such as the Hue lights and the motorized blinds. What’s more, you no longer need the Apple TV, with its frankly out-of-date set top box to regulate the HomeKit devices when you are not in your home; the HomePod speaker will take care of all that.
So what are the downsides of this great gadget? Let’s take a look.
Cons of the HomePod:
The sound could be better: The sound quality is good, but not so good that you can drown in it. The most jarring note is possibly the fact that bass notes sound way too loud, although the vocal are not overshadowed by them. For someone who is trying to concentrate on the vocals and/or really trying to get a feel of the overall song, this can be a tad disconcerting.
No luck for non-Apple devices: The HomePod can be paired with other compatible speakers, that is, only those speakers that feature the Airplay 2 functionality, recently launched by Apple. Which means that Android phone users will have no luck with the speakers.
It doesn’t seem very personalized: Sure, that doesn’t seem to be a big letdown, but it is possible that the HomePod will not be able to integrate with all your devices and communicate with them, something that the Echo already does. This is not certain, but the demo version did not showcase this feature, which means you might not be able to shop online or order food with the HomePod.
It’s extremely pricey: Yes, that is a big thumbs down for the Apple HomePod. Even coming from the revered stable of Apple which faithfully churns out pretty expensive devices regularly, the HomePod is likely to burn a hole in most of our pockets with its initial price tag of $349. The UK and Australian prices have not yet been declared, but it can be anticipated that they will be uncomfortably close to the USD mark.
The Apple HomePod is going to be available in stores from December 2017 onwards. It is slightly on the pricier side, but Apple being Apple will face no difficulty in finding takers. And as far as the demo is concerned, the product has certainly been able to arouse the interest of gadget aficionados and even the casual user. Let’s hope Apple is able to live up to the frenzy they have created yet again.