Yesterday I launched a 2018 Holiday Shopping List for Apple Products, focusing on helping you choose the best Apple Watch, iPad, iPhone, Mac and accessories before Black Friday-Cyber Monday. One thing I quit was HomePod, the $ 349 Apple "smart speaker" I reviewed here, although it has a pretty good chance of seeing discounts.
I bought HomePod as soon as it was released, and in one year that has seen several rollouts of great new Apple devices, it's the only Apple purchase I'm sorry to hold. Since I have been in my house for the past nine months, I would prevent accidentally getting this year's "lump litter" gift to someone you care about ̵
HomePod is simple in the concept. The all-in-one speaker can stream audio from Apple Music or Apple devices, answer voice commands using Siri, and check HomeKit smart home accessories. Apple's official HomePod page shows the speaker set by itself in a living room, but the company has suggested that it could sit in a kitchen, dining room or bookcase as well. Gray and white versions are available.
HomePod takes design buttons from former smart speakers: It fits more tweeter and a woofer in a seven-inch high tube, instead of a traditional box shape with clear left and right sides. Because of its round body, it designs sound in several directions, instead of performing music with its original stereo separation. If you want something closer to real stereo, buy another HomePod, assuming you're willing to pay $ 700 for a small pair of speakers.
Apple deserves some credit to try to improve HomePod after its first release. The speaker is shipped in February without the initially promised support for either stereo or multi-room playback, but Apple enabled these features at the end of May. In September, HomePod achieved phone call capabilities, more countdown lessons and Spanish recognition of languages, as well as support for Siri Shortcuts. In addition to the fact that HomePod could be sold in several countries, Apple wanted it to be useful in kitchen as a cooking mate – a market recently targeted to Amazon's echo-lovers and newer Google Assistant devices with screens missing by HomePod.
The key issue for Apple has been that HomePod is ridiculously expensive compared to rival smart speakers. Almost all of its competitors have been sold for under $ 200, and the bestsellers are in the $ 50 to $ 150 series. Common people have installed more Amazon Echo speakers in their homes because it is actually reasonable to do that. Although HomePod is discounted to $ 250 or $ 300 for the holiday, it is still extremely expensive.
Amazon has led the industry to popularize smart speakers. It has recently released its third generation Echo Dot for $ 50, and it's currently giving away with vacation purchases of certain technical gadgets; A repeat deal has offered them for just one dollar (plus tax) with a new subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. Last year, Echo Dot was Amazon's most popular holiday product from "any producer in any category" and the new version is even better, with a HomePod-like exterior.
Yes, HomePod sounds better, but in a typical kitchen or bookshelf, it's not going to sound seven times better than an echo, even though it costs seven times as much. If you really need more competitive audio, Amazon, Google, Sonos and others already have opportunities at or below HomePod's price with more convincing features. Amazon alone has an amazing array of new, up-to-date Echo options coming this year and next.
HomePod's second major issue is that Amazon and Google's solutions are smarter and easier to use than Apple's Siri. The new echoton came to my home, and with literally zero work from me, in addition to connecting its power cord, I set up on my Wi-Fi network, connected to my Amazon account, and automatically updated its firmware . Just like Echo Spot I bought last year, it immediately responds to Alexa requests, and routinely surprises me with its extensibility. It offers some kind of frantic, fun experience I can recommend to anyone, and unlike HomePod, I feel comfortable placing it anywhere in a house.
There have been rumors all year long that Apple is working on a smaller and less expensive version of HomePod; It's left to see if it's released, or Apple just goes away from the smart speaker market all the way. In general, the company does not leave a new product line after a single problematic release (see: Apple Watch), but it was the case with its latest internally developed iPod Hi-Fi speaker, many years ago.
My advice for this high season is to pass on buying the current HomePod even though it is significantly discounted because the same dollars could be better off against one of Apple's superior products – or a whole fleet of Echo Dots. Unless you plan to give HomePod to someone with a special need for an Apple Music speaker, do not be surprised if it turns out to be a pretty expensive disappointment.