In defense of Apple’s HomePod

“My HomePod, Google Home and Amazon Echo all live within about 15 feet of each other in my apartment,” Lucas Matney writes for TechCrunch. “This is as much a testament to my obsession with smart home crap as it is to my inability to buy into a single tech giant’s hardware ecosystem. I’ve gone all-in with each assistant at various times but now my entire connected life is run through a series of commands that are held together by specific intonations, exact phrasing and speaking volumes of which I alone fully grasp.”

“This amalgam of chatty smart assistants has made me pretty in tune with each of these product’s faults, but it’s also helped me gain a deep appreciation for the individual strengths of the platforms themselves,” Matney writes. “Now, I’m not in the habit of defending near-trillion dollar companies, but I think much of [the recent HomePod] criticism is misplaced. The HomePod is probably the best-functioning smart speaker of the bunch, and I’d also contend that the company’s overall strategy is far from being “years behind” its competitors. Apple’s AI strategy needs some TLC to strengthen Siri, but with the AirPods and HomePod, Apple is building a unified front on audio hardware that will weather the gimmicks of a market that seems artificially mature to begin with.”

“HomePod wins on the intelligence of its listening capabilities via a microphone array that can hear me at a whisper’s volume even while loud music is playing. It’s an overlooked feature in hardware comparisons, and it’s honestly one of the most important in practice,” Matney writes. “While Amazon’s tech here has long been impressive as well, I’ve found the HomePod to be a bit more effective when tunes are blaring while pretty much laying waste to Google’s smart speakers (including the Max) which have always seemed to be hard of hearing in noisy environments from my experience.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: HomePod is clearly the best of the bunch. But the bar is set low in the smart speaker market and Apple needs to do much better especially when it come to giving Siri the power to do painfully obvious things that it should already do – like control Apple TV, for one example – that it cannot currently accomplish. We won’t even get into how you ship a smart speaker, selling it on quality, and not even have multi-room audio or even stereo paring available at launch, some 3.5 years after Amazon debuted the Echo.


    1. HomePod series 2? You won’t need to buy a new version of the device; AirPlay 2 will be a software update that will provide stereo playback and multi-room control. Improved functionality of Siri (if/when) will be via an iOS update as well.

  1. Also, with the original ground breaking Iphone in 2007 upto iphone 3GS, it had no video (iPhone 3gs did video), no flash light for taking pictures in dark conditions. Yet it was a ground breaking phone. Needless to say the iPhone 4 sorted everything, a good camera front and back and led flash light. Ditto with the homepod, it will grow to something better

    1. The original iPhone – with far less tech then the current iPhones have – was still ground breaking, and light-years ahead of any flip phone on the market at the time.

      The HomePod is being marketed by Apple for it’s superior sound (because it’s a pretty dumb smart speaker) – which is hysterical, because Apple has destroyed everyone’s hearing with the Earbuds / EarPods that shipped with iPhones. They can’t compete on “smartness” so they’re going with sound.

  2. I love my HomePod and Siri does most of what I want. The ability to hear me in loud environments is a huge selling point. Once AirPlay 2 is released I will add a second one. Siri via HomePod will eventually control Apple TV, which is my main want at present.

      1. “YES YES YES”

        I agree.

        To all the critics of HomePod (including the author of this: “needs to do much better especially when it come to giving Siri the power to do painfully obvious things that it should already do”

        I say, if you can do better, then do it, otherwise, shut the fuck up.

        What the HomePod can do that Google Home and Amazon Echo cannot: shape sound to fit a room’s size and shape while accounting for major pieces of furniture, provide industry-leading sound quality at its price point (which is much, much better than the Echo or Home), provide upgradeability as its OS is improved, recognize voice commands in a very loud environment without the user having to raise his/her voice, and the HomePod does all this in its FIRST iteration.

        Apple has never introduced the first product in a new category, but over time its products improve greatly and then dominates (all the while being priced higher than the competition).

        The HomePod is no different than the Apple IIe, the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, AirBuds, or the Apple Watch, in this respect. In time (because everything takes time) HomePod will be recognized as the best sound system, the best digital assistant with the best voice controller, just like, over time, Apple Music will be recognized as the best streaming content (audio and video) player.

        SIRI isn’t as good as some might want, but that’s a matter of priorities and resource allocation. Considering Apple’s recent AI hires I expect that priority is now shifting to voice control. In 2 years time, all the critics of today’s HomePod/SIRI are going to look foolish, to say the least, but none of HomePod’s critics will come back and say they were wrong.

        1. > I say, if you can do better, then do it, otherwise, shut the fuck up.

          Stupid comment. We can’t do better because we are not computer companies. We are consumers. And as consumers, it is proper to demand better.

          Idiots like you represent the opposite of what Apple should be. Apple should delight its customers. It should put own products that just work rather than just work. A person like you who justifies Apple’s sub-standard products sold at high cost is no friend of Apple.

  3. I had been hopeful that the HomePod would give me some reasonable voice control over my extensive (>47,000 tracks) music library.

    However with much of my library classical and Jazz music, voice control continues to be mostly worthless. Siri hasn’t been trained to recognize even simple words like “Mahler” or “Stravinsky” or “Thelonius Monk”.

  4. I have 6 HomePods on 2 levels in my home. i control my Hue lights with Alexa for now, but Siri does work. I can use iTunes for full home sound although it would be nice to create groups. I also have Sonos speakers which are frustrating to use with the Sonos App. I never have figured out how Alexa works with Sonos. Stereo pairing would be nice but it is not a deal killer.

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