HomePod: Late and pricey, but Apple’s smart speaker could still have one advantage over its rivals

“Apple’s HomePod smart speaker could be on sale in the next few weeks, with reports that the first shipments have finally left the factories,” Steve Ranger writes for ZDNet. “HomePod was supposed to be on sale in December for that all-important holiday shopping season, but Apple delayed it at the last minute saying it needed ‘a little more time before it’s ready.'”

“That means the HomePod will finally go on sale more than three years after Amazon launched the Echo smart speaker, which kickstarted the market and still dominates it, and more than a year behind Google Home. And there are plenty of other rivals, from Samsung to Sonos,” Ranger writes. “Apple needs to be in the smart speaker market because these devices are becoming a key gateway to subscription services like music, can connect with smart home gadgets, and facilitate other activities like shopping and playing games.”

“Perhaps Apple is hoping that HomePod will appeal to your inner musical connoisseur, who will appreciate that the device has the same chip as the iPhone and uses it for real-time acoustic modelling, audio beam forming, and multi-channel echo cancellation. But there’s a hefty price to pay for such premium sound quality and spatial awareness: $349. That doesn’t make HomePod the most expensive smart speaker around, as Google’s Home Max comes in at $399. But it is a premium product in a market where prices are dropping,” Ranger writes. “To my mind, that leaves one way for Apple to get ahead in the smart speaker market: by placing a much higher priority on privacy.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Can you sell a product based on something that too few really value?

Tim Cook has some very admirable qualities. For just one example, his stance on privacy is important and unparalleled. We’re not sure we’d have such privacy with any other CEO this side of Edward Snowden. (Of course, Cook’s ability to make that a selling point is in question as the near total lack of privacy doesn’t seem to dissuade literally billions of people from surrendering it daily to FaceBook and Google.)MacDailyNews, November 21, 2017

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

31 Comments

  1. I think HomePod’s market is in place of a sound bar for new TV sets. It is cost competitive in that market with superior sound, less space and Siri functionality.

  2. I’ll be interested once it’s wireless and under $200. Given the trajectory towards mobility in the past decade, you’d think Apple would produce something that isn’t tethered to a wall outlet. The Homepod has been presented as an Apple Music speaker, but it’s not something you can easily share with friends unless you invite them over.

  3. Music as a “thing” is not an Apple thing, a Google thing, and Amazon thing. It’s between the musician and the listener.

    Advise to the listener….!
    Don’t. Get. Locked. In! It’s too important.

    For me, right now, it’s an Echo Dot to ANY speaker I wish. That can change.
    It could have been a Google product too. Apple has no product, yet, that is shown to have this latitude.

    1. music from your Mac or iPhone libraries through HomePod as well so you’re not locked in. It’s only if you’re asking HomePod “play this artist etc” that you’re tied to Apple Music.

        1. Airplay only which still doesn’t lock me in. I can play any music I have on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac through the HomePod. Your complaint was about not being locked in with your music. You are not locked in, in that way, with HomePod. You are tied to Airplay, and Apple Music on the HomePod itself. Bu there is no lock in when it comes to your music.

            1. good things about AllCast. Reviews say it works with no problems. But there’s no lock in with your music on HomePod. You should be able to play songs from Spotify, iTunes, etc on HomePod.

            2. That’s not true, on both counts. All cast is not good, not for me anyway, I tried it. Pauses, skips, disconnections, etc.

              Real reliable Airplay requires real Apple solutions, iTunes or iOS. True playback device independence, such as the Echo Dot, requires a non HomePod device. HomePod could have included an Aux port, they didn’t.

            3. about? Any music on an iPhone can be played through the HomePod. The source doesn’t matter, the song just has to be on your iPhone. The HomePod itself is not open but your music isn’t locked in or limited, if you can get a song on your iPhone in any way you can play it on the HomePod.

            4. Smack yourself upside the head and pay attention!

              “The source doesn’t matter, the song just has to be on your iPhone. ”

              In one sentence!

              The speaker will only work with Airplay capable devices!

            5. is locked down but your music is not. I think you need to learn to read more carefully. I never said the hardware wasn’t locked. I said your music is not locked in and that was your original complaint.

            6. It’s been hardware from the beginning, which can influence the music itself. To use a Homepod (or Apple Watch) you need to have (or get) an iPhone, iPad, or play it on iTunes… You do know that there are various playback devices that don’t have an Apple on them…Usage of the Homepod is locked! It’s not versatile. Heck, it won’t even work with an old iPod.

              Your older stereo system need not apply. Android device performance is (almost) guaranteed to stink.

            7. seemed very clear that it was about the music, “Music as a “thing” is not an Apple thing, a Google thing, and Amazon thing. It’s between the musician and the listener.”

              I agree. But all you have to do is keep your music in an open format and then play it through the HomePod with your iPhone. You don’t have to use iTunes by the way.

              Apple hardware is locked down in many ways but that is a different discussion. Caring about keeping your music completely open does not mean you can’t use a HomePod. You can. It’s fine. Now if you don’t want hardware that is locked down you shouldn’t buy anything from Apple. But going back to your original comment, caring about keeping your music free and open does not disqualify the HomePod as a listening device.

            8. If your hardware playback devices are limited, your music is limited… There’s no good reason this shouldn’t play even other’s proprietary formats through wire or BT. There it’s a lockout. Still a limitation. You cannot separate them.

            9. and you must know that. Music is a digital file. Hardware is not. I can put any song in the world on my iPhone and then play it through the HomePod. You can separate the two because they are separate.

              I agree HomePod should have other options for playing music on it but that is a different complaint. When discussing just the songs there is zero limitation on your iPhone which then means there is zero limitation for what you can play through the HomePod. Hardware complaints about no aux jack or bluetooth are legitimate but not related.

  4. “MacDailyNews Take: Can you sell a product based on something that too few really value?”

    The smart watch – total gimmick. Apple developed voice assist SIRI but could not see beyond it as it was focused solely on the iPhone. Apple place SIRI on the back burner as with the Mac Pro and Mac mini.

    Meanwhile the competition created their own voice assist and created the smart speaker. Not only is Apple late to the party but they’re also about $250 – $300 more expensive.

    ““Perhaps Apple is hoping that HomePod will appeal to your inner musical connoisseur”

    As I’ve stated before, Apple created an internet radio but marketed it as a smart speaker.

  5. An article in today’s San Francisco chronicle sites a survey showing that most owners of Alexa don’t use it very much. They do use it it is for very simple things. My take on this is that this is still the very early days of these types of listening assistants. There is still room for lots of development of this interface.

    1. Yeah I got an Amazon echo for Christmas and barely use it. Sounds worse then my Sonos 1s. Can’t wait to see what it will sound like. If it’s good I’m getting at least one and sell the others.

  6. This will be about 2 things. 1: Sound. Obviously, they’ve prioritized the speaker heavily. If it’s as good as their claims, it will be a selling point. 2: Siri being able to do everything she can do on my phone, IOW be fully integrated into iCal, Mail, Message, reminders, etc. If it does that, it has just leap frogged the competition. Obviously google will follow suit quickly, but Alexa has no where to go on this one.

  7. The one advantage is that people will buy it in large quantities even without a steep discount.

    Well, sure, privacy is cool, too. “No ads” will be AMAZING!

    1. Bugged….
      Do you believe in Chemtrails, HAARP Weather control, and tinfoil as a fashion statement?

      Not that conspiracies don’t exist, but you believe them only after you’ve ruled out everything else.

      Now then… Don’t trust AMAZON?
      Good, you shouldn’t trust any company.

      Prefer to trust Apple? Also good, I wish Apple didn’t try to corral me.
      I’ll wait for the Siri Pod, IF it can directly replace the Echo Dot.

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