Why Apple’s HomePod is poised to bomb

By

Will Apple's HomePod smart speaker be DOA?

Image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

HomePod, the first new Apple product of 2018, is about to arrive. And as a huge Apple fanboy, I couldn’t care less.

Apple’s been hyping its smart speaker ever since unveiling the device last June at the Worldwide Developers Conference. And yet HomePod has failed to really excite fans (except through leaks that gave us early details about the iPhone X). Apple bills HomePod as a powerful speaker that packs Siri to take your listening experience to an all-new level. But with its Feb. 9 release just weeks away, HomePod is looking more like Apple’s next big bomb.

I’ve given HomePod a lot of thought over the last six months. Even though it sounds like an audiophile’s dream smart speaker, there’s absolutely no way I can rationalize buying one. I’ve bought nearly every major new Apple product that’s come out since the original iPhone, but I think some crucial HomePod flaws make it totally unappealing for most people.

Here’s why you should probably skip the HomePod.

It’s too damn expensive

With its $350 price tag, HomePod is one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market. But it doesn’t really come with any benefits over its competitors. Sure, the sound is supposed to be way better than an Amazon Echo, but is marginally better sound really worth the extra money?

Admittedly, I’m cheap. And I don’t have the most sensitive set of ears that can appreciate the clarity of sound pumped out by HomePod’s seven tweeters. Still, if I’m going to pay more than $200 for a speaker, it better make life immensely better. When I think of all the other things I could spend my money on (like DJI’s new Mavic Air drone), an expensive speaker designed by Apple doesn’t land high up on my wish list.

Siri sucks

Apple markets HomePod as a great speaker first. And a Siri device second. If you really care about audio quality, it might be worth the purchase. But if you’re looking for a really smart speaker that will change how you live your life, Siri isn’t going to cut it.

Apple’s digital assistant has made some improvements over the last few years, but Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant both integrate with far more third-party services. They can also actually understand what I’m saying, which isn’t always the case with Siri. Until Apple makes Siri smarter — and integrates it better with other apps — you might as well just buy a $50 Amazon Echo Dot and connect it to an awesome Bluetooth speaker.

You’re stuck with Apple Music

To take advantage of all of HomePod’s music features, you’ll need an Apple Music subscription. I’m a Spotify lover, and the thought of switching back over to Apple Music terrifies me. All my friends are on Spotify, along with all the playlists we make together.

Sure, you could connect your iPhone to the HomePod via Bluetooth and play Spotify from there. It’s not the same, though. You won’t be able to do stuff like say, “Hey Siri, add this to my ‘Upbeat Chill’ playlist,” or “Play my Daily Mix.” Fans of Apple Music might not think it’s a big deal. But if you want to stay on Spotify, this is a dealbreaker.

HomePod is not even finished yet!

Not only did Apple miss the HomepPod’s first estimated shipping window of late 2017, but some of the speakers features won’t even ready for the delayed launch. One of the coolest features of the HomePod is its ability to pair with other HomePod speakers to create a mesh audio network. According to Apple’s website, that feature isn’t coming until later this year.

AirPlay 2 also won’t be available at launch, meaning you can’t choose to have one song play everywhere, or have different songs played in different rooms of your house.

HomePod faces tough, entrenched rivals

As a product, the HomePod feels like it came out of Apple’s HQ as an afterthought. Apple execs say the speaker has been in the works for years, yet HomePod seems like it’s just a knee-jerk response to Google Home and Amazon Echo, the smart speakers currently setting the agenda.

All of HomePod’s rivals seem more compelling in every way except audio quality. Better sound won’t be enough to win the smart speaker war. Even Facebook is bringing more innovation to the smart speaker game right now.

Which begs the question: Does even Apple itself really care about HomePod?

Sound off: Will you be ordering a HomePod?


HomePod preorders start this Friday ahead of the smart speaker’s Feb. 9 launch. Will you be ordering one? Or are you satisfied with a competing smart speaker (or other audio device)? Let us know in the comments below.