I wouldn’t call myself an Apple loyalist, exactly – even though I’m typing these words on my MacBook while listening to music on my Beats wireless headphones.
(I have an iPhone and and Apple Watch, too.)
It’s just that a few years ago I decided that if I wanted a new gadget, it was easiest to just buy Apple. All of Apple’s stuff works well together, mostly. The more Apple stuff I buy, the more it makes sense for my next big tech purchase to be Apple.
More generally, I find that Apple getting into a market – like tablets, or smartwatches – is a good signal that the technology is ready for real consumers, not just early adopters.
But this time around, I’m passing on the HomePod, Apple’s new $US350 smart speaker. It’s the first major Apple product I’ve passed on in a while.
It’s too expensive.
At $US350, HomePod is not an easy impulse purchase. At worst, it’s a lot of money for a product I’m not sure fits into my life. And even if I like it, HomePod would have to clear a high bar to be worth $US350. Besides, I have a quality Bluetooth speaker that works great – and it was a lot cheaper than a HomePod.
I live in a small apartment.
I don’t have people over often. A loud speaker is not something that I was already looking to purchase. I listen to music on my headphones, or through the Bluetooth speaker I already own. If I really need to play music that loudly, I can just pipe it through my Apple TV.
I mean – look at this image, taken from an official video that Apple uses to show the range on the HomePod . That’s bigger than my entire apartment!
Sound quality simply does not matter that much to me.
The fine distinctions in audio quality between speakers is lost to me.
When Apple first unveiled the HomePod in 2017, I got to listen to it directly compared against a high-end Sonos speaker, as well as the $US99 Amazon Echo. While the HomePod sounded better, it wasn’t so much more spectacular that I wouldn’t pick the Sonos for its lower price, or the Echo, for its better integration with Amazon’s online services.
And as an Apple fan, I don’t really have a point of comparison. I’ve spent the last several years mainly listening to music from my MacBook speakers or Apple headphones, so I’m not even sure what I’m missing out on if I don’t move towards high-end audio.
Siri’s functionality is currently limited compared to competing Google and Amazon products.
HomePod can’t check your calendar or make calls – it can’t even set two timers at the same time. If I want to try out what the future feels like, I’m much more likely to be satisfied trying it out with a less expensive Amazon Echo or Google Home, both of which cost $US99.
Compared with Google’s famous practices of scraping user data, I do appreciate Apple’s focus on privacy. The company’s public commitment to keeping your data private does make me a little more comfortable with the idea of sticking an always-on, net-connected microphone in my house.
But just because Apple’s privacy protections are better, doesn’t mean they’re good enough. Ultimately, I guess I’m just nervous about the broader implications of putting a HomePod in my home.
The people who live with me use Spotify.
My roommate and girlfriend both use Spotify, currently the most popular music streaming service in the world. I, personally, use Apple Music. And the HomePod doesn’t make it easy for us to meet in the middle.
Although you can technically use Spotify with a HomePod, you can’t tell Siri to have it play a song. Instead, you have to use your iPhone to wirelessly connect with the speaker, and then manually queue up the songs you want. At that point, you can play, pause, and skip tracks, and control the volume. But you can’t just say “Hey Siri, play Radiohead from Spotify.”
Contrast that with its built-in Apple Music support, which works much more seamlessly. You can simply tell the HomePod “Hey Siri, play my workout playlist,” and off it goes.
We already have a high-quality Bluetooth speaker in the apartment, which works with both Spotify and with Apple Music, across both iPhone and Android. Getting the HomePod would only be useful for me and my Apple Music, while making life more difficult for my roommate.
I don’t own any HomePod-supported smart-home gear.
Apple is pitching the HomePod as perfect for people who have amassed a collection of smart lightbulbs, showerheads, and other products that integrate with Apple’s HomeKit standard.
Previously, you’ve needed to have an Apple TV or iPad in your home to act as a hub for your HomeKit gear. Now, the HomePod fills that role, too – meaning you can tell your HomePod “Hey Siri, turn on the kitchen lights,” and assuming you’ve got the right bulbs, it will work.
I don’t have any HomeKit-supported products aside from a single smart lightbulb, and I have no plans to get any more. So this banner feature is a non-starter for me.
It doesn’t work with my home decor.
HomePod only comes in two colours, black and white. And the modern subtle design just doesn’t work for my aesthetic. Apple has produced a lot of amazing-looking items in the past, including a speaker set that’s in the Museum of Modern Art, but something about this little squat barrel doesn’t do it for me. I’d be looking for somewhere to hide it on a shelf.
I don’t buy cool technology, I buy products that can do things for me.
I don’t doubt that there’s a lot of fancy technology in HomePod.Apple’s website talks about acoustic analysis, beam-forming, and “the biggest brain ever in a speaker.”
But I’m an Apple fan because I don’t want to buy “technology,” exactly. It doesn’t matter to me which chip is in my speaker. I buy technology because of what it can do for me – and right now, it doesn’t seem like HomePod is the right purchase for me.
There’s no headphone jack.
Like I said – I’m an Apple fan. I get why Apple didn’t include a jack on the HomePod. It looks forward, not back, and the future of audio is wireless and simple.
So it’s no surprise why the HomePod only supports AirPlay, its proprietary wireless audio standard. That means you can use it as a speaker for an iPhone, iPad, or Mac – but nothing else. It doesn’t support plain-old Bluetooth, even, so it won’t work with any Android or PC at all.
So if there were a headphone jack, I could at least be sure I could use HomePod as a pretty sweet desktop speaker.