By Peng Xie
Apple’s highly anticipated speaker is finally released after a few months of delay. I happen to be in the market for some new speakers. Would I give HomePod a home then?
When it comes to speaker shopping, sound and build qualities are two most important aspects I care about. Being an Apple product, HomePod obviously inherited the same beautiful, high quality design from the family. And as a speaker, HomePod does not disappoint either. After some complicated measurements, a Reddit user on r/audiophile claimed that HomePod is “100% an Audiophile grade speaker.” The review has been picked up by multiple publishers as well as Apple’s Senior VP, Phil Schiller. Although later on the measurements were regarded as inconclusive after being examined by other Reddit users, HomePod did receive overwhelmingly positive comments on sound quality from reviewers. Personally, I’d like to see some scientific measurements and comparisons on HomePod against other high end speakers. Even if I decide to buy one, I still want to give it a listen myself if possible since sound quality can be subjective after all.
Now let’s put aside the Apple-colored glasses and check the HomePod from a “different” perspective. First, anyone who is considering getting a HomePod should know you’re buying into Apple’s ecosystem if you’re not already in it. Though it may simplify the setup procedures, keep in mind HomePod would only stream from your own iTunes library via AirPlay or Apple Music which is a paid subscription. No Spotify, Amazon Music or Audible.
What is more (worse?), HomePod doesn’t support Bluetooth either. So if you don’t have any device that supports AirPlay, HomePod is pretty much unusable. And a big NO-NO for me is that HomePod doesn’t have any wired audio inputs for more traditional devices like a turntable.
The least of my concerns on HomePod is the aspect of being a smart speaker. But this may very well be as important as sound quality to me to other potential buyers. If you have any experience with Amazon Echo’s Alexa or Google Home, you may find Siri on HomePod pretty basic. It can’t learn new skills and some features won’t be available if the paired iPhone is not nearby. So, don’t get your hope up.
And the ugly
Warning: HomePod ruins furnitures!
This is literally “ugly”. Multiple sources have reported that HomePod will leave a white ring on certain wood surfaces. Apple acknowledges this situation and suggests that the ring will fade or can be cleaned using “manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.”
Okay, whatever you say Apple.
You may already be able to guess that I won’t be getting the HomePod. Well, at least not now. I have a first generation Amazon Echo at home and recently bought a Echo Dot to use in a different room. None of them are particularly smart and Alexa still has problem differentiating my Philip Hue lights and scenes if they have similar names. For sound quality and usability I think traditional speakers and amp setup can still run rings around HomePod for same amount of money. Apple made some pretty impressive speakers and headphones before, so I have confidence in the future of HomePod. It’s just not for most people at the moment.