The early reviews are in, and true to form, everything about Apple’s new HomePod talking speaker system smacks of high quality audio. Isn’t that what you would expect from Apple? HomePod may be small, but relative to how everyone says it sounds, the diminutive device is a bargain.
I see a few somewhat negative issues with HomePod and some things not yet mentioned about Apple’s foray into talking speakers. The first is the price tag. At $349 HomePod represents a chunk of change when compared to Google Home mini and various Amazon Echo devices. What does HomePod bring to the table to justify the price?
Quality audio. Like, duh. Apple is about quality. Apple is about music (Beats, Apple Music, iTunes, iPod, et al). So it makes sense that HomePod is about sound quality and reviewers who have listened to the device when stacked up against competing talking speakers (or, just plain speakers) say the sound is great.
OK, fair enough. Second on my list of concerns is how we Apple customers can see HomePod in real life, and when I say see I really mean hear. The Apple Store is a crummy location to listen to a quality speaker system. Third on my list of concerns is HomePod’s not quite ready for primetime feature set. No stereo, for example. Yes, I expect upgrades over the course of 2018 will fill in some of those gaps.
For a decent look at what HomePod brings to the home, check at Matthew Panzarino’s four sentence review.
Finally, Siri is the least competitive of the talking and so-called intelligent personal assistants– Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana– but since they are all stupid as a post, that’s not much of an issue. Yet.
So, what does HomePod need to gain market penetration that we see already with Amazon’s Echo line and Google’s hot-selling Home?
HomePod Express. Or, put another way– HomePod Air. In other words, a less expensive HomePod. Apple has been doing this kind of ‘high quality’ launch then less expensive products for years. iPod itself was expensive but became substantially less expensive over the years. The once most expensive MacBook Air became Apple’s little $999 darling notebook that won’t die. Apple Watch has high end and entry-level models. Ditto for iPad Pro vs. the $329 9.7-inch iPad.
A HomePod Express or HomePod Air would be a similarly looking speaker system, perhaps sold as a package of two speakers to get stereo in to the marketplace. Two smaller stereo HomePod speakers for $349 sounds inviting, no?
Since the iPod ruled at the turn of the century, Apple has become the master at creating a migrating line of products; from Mac to iPhone to iPad to Watch to Beats headphones (haven’t seen it with AirPods yet). It only makes sense that the 2018 holiday shopping season will bring us a HomePod Express package, but with improved Siri capability so it recognizes voices individually. Maybe that’s why Shazam Is Not About Music.