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Is Apple's HomePod failing?

Is Apple's HomePod failing?
From Engadget - April 13, 2018

Daniel Cooper
Senior Editor

(Has a Google Home Mini, Sony HT-CT80 home theater system and a Soundfreaq Sound Platform 2 speaker.)

I am not in any way surprised that the HomePod has fizzled, simply because it's a weird product with a very weird proposition. I seriously considered buying it in the run-up to its launch, but ultimately could not find a strong enough reason to plunk down $350.

(Has an Apple HomePod and Google Home; uses his TV's built-in speakers.)

Apple's sales pitch was pretty brief: This is a fantastic-sounding speaker and it works with your iPhone and with Siri, a little. That's it. I have been using the HomePod since it launched -- and have never extensively listened to a speaker that sounds this good. (I am already looking forward to readers' thoughts on this, but suffice to say I am not alone in praising the HomePod in this regard.)

Dan: Yeah, but if I am spending that much on a product, I do not want to use it with one hand tied behind my back, so to speak. Especially in a world where Google and Amazon are regularly pushing the limits of what's possible with smart speakers. Which is a shame, as you say, Mat, because many audiophiles say the HomePod outclasses hardware twice the price. But, unfortunately, quality alone does not make something a must-purchase, no matter how much it will shame your friends with thousand-dollar Sonos setups.

Mat: I have a Google Home speaker, and it can do so much more, voice assistant-wise, than the HomePod. I have talked before about how much I prefer Google Assistant over Amazon's Alexa, and while this has not changed, both of these rivals are selling cheaper smart speakers that are more capable, even if they do not sound nearly as good as Apple's new speaker. All the problems Chris mentioned in his review are major ones that need addressing.

Dan: For me, it's Apple's refusal to compromise on the practical things that kills any reason for me to buy the HomePod, despite being a fully paid-up Apple fanboy. I'd love, for instance, to use the HomePod with Spotify like I do with the Google Home Mini. Or, even better, use an optical-in connection to connect it to my TV and use it as my home's primary speaker. The same product with one tiny concession to the real world would be a much more popular product, for sure. And do not get me started on the lack of Bluetooth. You can argue that even with AptX it's lower quality audio, but its omission is a raised middle finger to everyone.

Mat: Yeah, why no Bluetooth? I consider that the wireless version of dismissing the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone. It has Bluetooth 5.0 in there somewhere, and it's not as if space is at a huge premium when it comes to a plug-speaker that sits on your shelf. (Do not forget the coaster.) It's makes other speaker systems and soundbars a smarter purchase, and if the HomePod worked with my TV, PS4 and PC, I would buy a second one for that long-promised stereo functionality. I am optimistic that Apple will deliver enough in terms of software, both in regard to Siri and compatibility. It needs it soon, though.

Dan: Let's talk about the fact that you are now locked into that ecosystem, so if something happens to Apple's music business in the future, you are screwed. The trick to not getting burned is to never, ever, fully commit to anything if you do not have an escape plan.

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