The early reviews are in and to the agitation of this particular editor, the reviews are praising Apple's HomePod as one of the best on the market.
However, bias aside, Apple hit a home run with the HomePod hardware, only to have the software push it back in play for a warning track pop fly to end the inning. The eight-speaker set-up of the HomePod allows big noise from a small can, pushing all the competition to the side. Its highs don't drop off, the bass is the clearest on the market, and the A9 processor scans the room constantly to control each individual driver. The software can push ambient sounds - with attention to left and right orientations - and then broadcast a direct sound to the user. Google talked a lot about using A.I. to create a better sounding speaker, but Apple was the first to accomplish it even with a delayed shipping date.
And that's where the HomePod stops winning.
Notorious for creating closed ecosystems, Apple has seemingly gone a step too far and killed a lot of the functionality not just for non-Apple users. First, of note, the HomePod doesn't play Spotify unless via Airplay.
In fact, it won't play Pandora, Tidal, Google Play Music, or any of the hundreds of streaming services on the market. Again, not a problem for Apple Music loyalists, but that is a bit hostile to the average consumer. Alexa and Google Home have no problem streaming any music service and Sonos widely agnostic mantra smokes the HomePod in this regard. On the same note of playing nice, don't expect the HomePod to recognize your Android device either.
Then there are the problems within Apple's own playbook, or rather the overreliance on Siri. The HomePod has reportedly shipped without separate voice recognition profiles so anyone in your home can ask Siri to read text messages or even send them if you are on the same Wi-Fi. Also, the screen on top is simply a blurry palette of colors just to visually indicate that Siri is working.
And finally, you have to use Siri, currently one of the most underwhelming voice assistants available.
Its stark contrasts run both sides of the gamut. Truly, no speaker on the market sounds as superb as the HomePod. And minus a few software snafu's, it will be an obvious option for Apple users looking to get a smart speaker.
But, those same benefits come with just as troubling problems as the closed ecosystem is going to hurt the sales of the HomePod out of the gate when agnostic options like Sonos, Google, and Amazon exist.
These closed ecosystem problems paint a bigger problem for Apple who is struggling to surpass Google and Amazon in a connected home market they essentially created.
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