HomePod

Most of the fuss about the HomePod, Apple’s new home speaker system, seems to be around the price. Certainly if you compare it with an Amazon Echo it’s expensive, but it’s in the same ball park as a Sonos. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the sound quality is closer to a Sonos than an Echo, so I don’t have a big problem with the cost.

I have a bigger problem with the functionality. Or at least, what we assume the functionality to be since no one outside Apple has ever used one.

Problem number one: multi-user. If it’s a home device rather than a personal device (like an iPhone), then how does it work with multiple people? My impression is that the answer is: it doesn’t. At least, not really. The blurb I’ve seen suggests that it works with multiple voices (unlike the “Hey Siri” functionality on your phone or tablet) but that’s about all.

You connect it to your Apple Music Family account and you’re good to go. Things like shared calendars and reminders will work without any extra effort.

What I’m hoping is that you’ll be able to say “Play Stephen’s Favourites Mix,” which would play this weeks “Favourite Mix” from my Apple Music account. But, frankly, I think I’m going to be disappointed.

My second problem is with how you select the music. How is it supposed to work? Am I just supposed to yell genres or artists at it? “Play me a dance playlist.”

I don’t think that’s going to work for me. The way I often pick my music is by browsing. Yes, I often list to my automatically generated/curated playlists but I also like the suggestions (“Tuesdays Playlists”), and will probably look at the songs in the playlist before adding it to my queue.

I don’t see how that could possible work with voice control.

Does that mean I’ll be left AirPlaying music from my phone? If that’s the case, I may as well get a much cheaper Bluetooth or AirPlay enabled speaker (or a Sonos). Unless the delayed AirPlay 2 allows a kind of ChromeCast feature where you define the download on your phone and the speaker then takes over. (Anyone see the WWDC session on it?)

Overall, the difficulty I’m having with the HomePod is not that it couldn’t work but that none of the marketing spiel talks about use by a family. What I have seen doesn’t fill me with confidence. For the price of, say, an Amazon Echo I might be willing to take a punt but the HomePod is nearly four times that. I want to like it but I’m waiting to see.