The problem with the hype around a device like HomePod is that it’s going to get a lot of attention for a long period before it goes on sale, and we don’t even know how it will be priced in Australia. But is the hype worth it?
That’s it. Nothing more to say.
We had the chance to get up close with HomePod at WWDC to see it and hear how it performs, and my first reaction was that it’s a “fatter” looking speaker than I imagined, or am used to, but that the sound is something special.
Our look and listen didn’t allow us to get a good look under and into the inner workings of the device, so it will be later in the year when we understand how that magic Siri animation on top works, and what controls exist on the device, though we’re pretty sure the top of the device will be touch sensitive to allow volume control without access to a smartphone or tablet.
The Siri animation on top certainly adds the Apple touch – why just have a coloured flashing light or ring around it when you can recreate the colourful visualisation we know of Siri from our Smartphones and other devices.
However it’s the smarts and sounds that matter here. I would suggest that first and foremost this is a Wireless Home Speaker. When you put it up against perhaps a BeoPlay from B&O the US price ($349) and possible Aussie price ($549?) really make it good value.
Of course this will be placed well above the Bluetooth speakers that are so popular today. The market Apple need to tap are those people looking to move up from a Bluetooth speaker to something with better sound and improved technology.
HomePod does that. The 7 mini tweeters around the base point in all directions to offer a 360 degree sound, however when you plug it in, it will automatically – and seemingly magically – test the surroundings. If its alongside a wall or in the corner, it will adjust the output to focus the sound into the centre of the room, and use the walls to bounce ambient signals and give a really “whole” sound.
To my ears the HomePod had a strong but not overpowering bass, the detail in some of the music I heard was so distinct and clear It was a touch mindblowing.
Sat side by side with a Sonos Play 3, and an Amazon Echo there was no competition. The thin and very tinny sound of the Echo was disappointing, while the Sonos held its own until you realised it was very directional and perhaps not as full a sound as the HomePod.
While it confirmed the sound credentials of the HomePod hearing it today, It needs to be heard and compared to Google Home, some Bose and BeoPlay 360 sound products to really ensure we’re making the right call on the stunning sound.
As for Siri – that testing will come later in the year. Too soon to say how powerful and responsive it will be.
Price will be key. Too close to $600 it will be a bit off-putting. Closer to $500 and this is a compelling challenger in a busy category, but a narrow section of the category (WiFi speakers).
Trevor Long traveled to San Jose as a Guest of Apple – click here to read our full list of commercial interests and disclosures