Apple HomePod speaker is...

The Apple HomePod is... both excellent and dubious. It depends on what you expect it to be able to do, without the marketing hype.

Apple's marketing

It's true, Apple's marketing would have you believe that the HomePod is a revolutionary music device, a revolutionary smart device, a revolutionary home automation device, and your friend in a classy black or white suit, with a heavy focus on its music ability.

While everyone expected it to equally amazing at everything, it, just, clearly, isn't.

The HomePod as a speaker

As a speaker, within the Apple ecosystem, the HomePod is absolutely awesome. Its music-playing features are excellent, its beam-forming and room-detecting features are first class, the bass is surprising, the high-volume performance is earth-trembling, and even on classical or vocal tracks, it remains crisp, clear, and replete with all the concert-hall bravado you'd expect from hearing the artist perform live.

On some of my favorite pieces of music, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was a piano in the room with you.

Turn it up with some of someone else's music, with electric guitars, drums, and screaming, and, it's equally impressive, to the point of hurting your ears for the next few days.

As a speaker within the Apple ecosystem, it's awesome.

The HomePod as a generic Bluetooth speaker

As a generic Bluetooth speaker, it sucks.

You simply cannot connect anything else to it, over Bluetooth. If you wanted to connect your Android phone, nope. Your old Zune, nope. Your old Sony Walkman, nope. Your $8000 Denon amplifier, nope. Your Windows laptop, nope. If it's not an Apple product, it wont connect.

There's no AUX port, no USB port, no 3.5mm line in port, nothing. It will just sit there and look pretty.

You can connect to it via AirPlay, or from an Apple device via Bluetooth, and that's it.

As a generic Bluetooth speaker, it sucks.

The HomePod as a Smart Assistant

As a smart assistant, the HomePod is seriously limited by Siri.

Siri is just not up to speed with everything that everyone expects her to be able to do.

Things that you can easily do with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant (we call him Henry), Siri struggles with.

Of course, Siri is software, and software can be improved. However Siri on the HomePod can't do things that Siri on the iPhone can do. Weird. The HomePod neeeeeeeeeeds a solid update to Siri.

As a smart assistant, the HomePod is weak.

The HomePod as a Smart Home Hub

As a smart home hub, the HomePod is good. It's not perfect, it's not approaching great, and it's not weak, it's simply just, good.

Using HomeKit integrations set up via the Home app on your iPhone or iPad, you can activate scenes, turn things on or off, change settings, adjust the volume, dim the lights, open the blinds, or any other instruction that you can do on an iPhone. It works, and it works well. But you can already do that on your iPhone, without buying a $350 HomePod.

So, the HomePod is best at....

The HomePod is best at playing music - being a speaker - a regular dumb speaker from 1973, re-engineered by Apple, and given a 2018 makeover.

Don't automatically expect it to be smart, bright, alert, perfect, or play nicely with your Android-y friends.

If your expectation of the HomePod is that it will be an excellent speaker for your shelf to play your Apple music, then 100% go and buy it, you'll be very very happy.

If your expectation of the HomePod is that it will replace your Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Sonos, microwave, and a couple other non-Apple gadgets, then, 0% do not buy it, you'll be deeply disappointed.

Could Apple have called it the 2018 iPod and got away with it? Yes. It plays music, it does a few other things (badly), but it does a great job of playing music, just like the original iPod.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas

XYZtech XYZ Media Group

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