Is the HomePod Right for You?

I took a walk down to the Chestnut Street Apple Store during lunch today to see the HomePod, and surprise, surprise, I bought one! Here are my thoughts.

Setup is super simple.

HomePod has the same magic setup process as the AirPods. Just put your phone near your recently unboxed HomePod and follow the steps on the screen. It takes less than a minute.

Sound quality is ridiculously good.

I'm no audiophile, but I have had a Marshal Stanmore speaker for 4+ years, and the HomePod is a step up for sure. This is what Apple is focusing on in their HomePod marketing. I've been told it offers audio technology that has typically been part of *$40k systems in a $350 cylinder.

*I originally mentioned "$10k systems", but Peter Cao, 9to5Mac editor, let me know that "$40k systems" is more accurate.

Siri for smart home works perfectly for me.

When I bought my smart light bulbs and plugs, I made sure they all worked with Apple's HomeKit, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and I think that was a smart decision. The HomePod handles my entire smart home setup perfectly.

If you have smart home devices that don't work with HomeKit, definitely keep that in mind. That'd be a big downside for the HomePod.

Overall, Siri is better, but still needs improvement.

Siri is much better at understanding what I say on the HomePod. In my afternoon of testing, it does just as well as my Alexa devices at answering basic questions and performing most basic actions. It can only do one timer at a time, however, and that means my Echo is staying in the kitchen for sure.

I didn't turn on any of the personal requests (sending messages, taking notes, etc), because the HomePod can't distinguish between different voices, like the iPhone, Echo, Google Home do. This is bad. It means a guest could ask my HomePod to send a message to my boss, and it would send it from my phone number. Apple needs to add multiple account/voice support very soon.

That said, we've had Echos around our house for months and never used them to send messages, create tasks or perform any "personal requests". We use our Echos for the weather, basic questions and timers, and (apart from multiple timers) Siri on HomePod does all of those things just as well.

It looks nice on our shelf.

This is a personal opinion, but I think the HomePod looks good.

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What about Music?

This requires some nuance.

TL;DR: If you're an Apple Music subscriber or have a large iTunes library, the HomePod is the only smart speaker with full native support for your music.

Any music service or app can play on the HomePod with AirPlay. Yes, that means Spotify too.

You can even have Siri play, pause, skip and the change volume of your Spotify songs while they're playing on the HomePod.

But you can't ask Siri to play your Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify. That functionality is reserved for Apple's media—Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iTunes libraries with iTunes Match.

This is a bummer for the 70 million Spotify subscribers, but as an Apple Music subscriber, this exact same issue (but in reverse) is why I didn't get the much more reasonably priced Sonos One.

The Sonos One is an awesome speaker, and you can get a two-pack for the price of one HomePod. You can even play Apple Music on it with AirPlay, exactly like playing Spotify on the HomePod, but you can't ask Alexa to play your favorite Apple Music playlist. It just doesn't work. For me and the other 35 million Apple Music subscribers, that's a bummer.

Is HomePod right for You?

I have no idea. It 100% depends on your setup.

The HomePod does some things incredibly well—seamless setup, sound quality, smart home controls, basic smart assistant interactions. It also does one thing that no other smart speaker can do—provides full native support for Apple Music and iTunes libraries with iTunes Match.

If you're all in on Apple's ecosystem—HomeKit, Apple Music, etc.—like me, you should give the HomePod a good solid look, and if you're not all in, I think the Sonos One or some other smart speaker with good sound is probably a better option.

TechnologyTimothy Buck