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Modern Dad on HomePod: It's only for the Apple Faithful

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I love me some connected speakers. I've got almost every speaker Sonos has released spread throughout my home. I've got every Amazon Echo ever sold. (Including, yes, the Look.) I've got all three entries in the Google Home line.

I am, as the kids say, a fan of the audios. (The kids don't say that? Well, they should.)

So I was very much looking forward to the Apple HomePod. I mean, sure. On one hand you wouldn't even have to buy the thing to know that the following things would be true:

  • HomePod would sound great.
  • HomePod would look great.
  • HomePod would treat Apple's own devices and services first, and everybody else's second.
  • HomePod would cost more than it should.

OK, so we got surprised on that last part. At $350, HomePod is priced very competitively for a speaker of its caliber.

But it also comes with some pretty serious caveats. If you're not all-in on Apple stuff — iPhone or iPod, Siri, and Apple Music — don't even bother at this point. In fact, you can boil it down even further. What device do you use most often to play music? If it's not an iPhone or iPad, don't bother.

HomePod is a great single speaker for Apple fans — and lousy for everybody (and everything) else.

If you're a fan of flooding your home with music, with the same thing playing at the same time in multiple rooms (and I should point out that I mean wirelessly, having helped my father run what seemed like miles of speaker cable in our homes back in the 1980s), then don't bother.

Same goes for using HomePod with AppleTV. Sure, it'll work. But you don't get the same room-filling sound, and that means your TV sounds like it's got a single speaker set to one side. Which it does. And that's no way to go through life.

HomePod is good at doing a few specific things. Apple Music and Siri, and Siri controlling Apple Music. That's it. (OK, it's also good at mucking up certain finishes on certain wood surfaces. But enough nerds have shed enough blood over that one already.)

AirPlay 2 will help, whenever it's actually released. And the adage is as true now as it ever was — buy a device for what it does today, not what it might do in the future.

Sonos still rules at whole-home music. (To say nothing of it supporting a ridiculous number of services.) Google Home one-ups Amazon in the audio quality department, and I prefer it for all the smart home stuff. But Amazon Echo also isn't going anywhere any time soon, and it's still a great option for a lot of folks.

But HomePod? You're going to have to want it. For now, it's for the Apple Faithful only.

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days.

10 Comments
  • Apple's first generation products are almost always limited in what they can do, and usually limited to just the Apple eco-system (at first). For example, even the first generation iPhone was extremely limited in may ways that it is not now. It only came with a few apps that Apple provided with the phone. There was no Apple Store to get additional apps for the first iPhone. Also, it was limited to people who owned Macs, since you needed a Mac and iTunes in order to set it up and sync it. The same can be seen with the first generation HomePod. It also is limited to the Apple eco-system. It also has a very limited version of Siri compared to the many more commands that can be handled by the full version of Siri on the iPhone. And some important features like using multiple HomePods in different locations, or setting up two for a wider stereo effect, are missing initially. Each Apple product grows in its abilities and openness over time, and the HomePod will be no exception. Yet, many reviewers are focusing on the limitations of the new HomePod, and forgetting that this is typical for a first generation Apple product.
  • I don't get your point. A reviewer is supposed to review a product as is, not with expectations of what it will or won't become in future. At least that's how I see it.
  • Software updates to the speaker will most likely bring a lot more functionality in time. This should be a strong point noted in reviews, but obviously people miss it out…
  • Then they can revisit the review and do a second take. Nothing wrong with a follow-up review or long-term report. People looking for a smart speaker have the right to be skeptical. Siri on the iPhone started out a halfwit, and she pretty much remains a halfwit to this day. The AirPod ships with decreased Siri functionality to start with. Updating it to a level where it's "intelligence" level catches up to the iPhone's Siri isn't all that high a bar to reach. Almost every reviewer out there has been pretty much spot on with their "best sounding but dumbest smart speaker" ratings.
  • So long as in the review they state something along the lines of "The HomePod is a great speaker that, whilst currently lacking in functionality, given Apple's history a lot of the missing functionality will be filled in", then that's fine. I'm ok with reviewers marking down for missing functionality, but they should take into account that Apple are very likely to add the functionality later on via updates
  • You're right... We should only have a review which includes all of the 'most likely' features it may or may not ever get, lol...
  • Many reviewers for the infamous video game "No Man's Sky" gave a point in their review that the game has the potential to be very fun with updates, since it had a good foundation but lacked content. This is the same thing, and given Apple's history, they _will_ add the missing functionality
  • "Also, it was limited to people who owned Macs, since you needed a Mac and iTunes in order to set it up and sync it." No it didn't. It synced with the Windows version of iTunes also.
  • I get your point but actually the iPhone was available for Mac and Windows using iTunes. It was the original iPod that only worked with Macs.
  • "If you're a fan of flooding your home with music, with the same thing playing at the same time in multiple rooms (and I should point out that I mean wirelessly, having helped my father run what seemed like miles of speaker cable in our homes back in the 1980s), then don't bother." I've been flooding my home with music - wirelessly - for years. I have a nice FM transmitter. Connect it to an MP3 player or tablet/computer/whatever source. Stream Spotify if I want. Pick an open FM frequency (104.9 works here). Covers the whole house and yard. So any radio or stereo receiver (with real stereo speakers!) works fine. Upstairs, downstairs, outside. FM transmitters are also less expensive than a single HomePod. You really need 2 in each room, and $700/$1,400/$2,100 buys a LOT of real audio equipment. Not just dinky little speakers.