Initial Thoughts on HomePod

At their World Wide Developer Conference last June, Apple announced a brand new product, and not just an iteration on one of its existing products. This product is the music speaker, called the HomePod. The HomePod officially became available on Friday. Despite nearly 11 inches of snow falling in the Chicago area, I ventured out to get the HomePod that I ordered for Pickup at the Apple Store. I was not sure if the Apple Store was even open with all of the snow, but they were. As a side note, my nearest Apple Store is just about five miles from my house and it can often take 25 minutes to go through with traffic, even with the slow driving, it was only a 15 minutes to get there, which is a nice change of pace for getting to and from my local Apple Store.

The Size

Almost every company will list the dimensions of their product, Apple is no exception. What you do not expect is the actual size of the HomePod. The device is quite compact and smaller than you might expect. The size makes it ideal for being able to place even in places with limited space.

The Weight

Within the diminutive space taken up by the HomePod there is a lot of equipment. The HomePod is surprisingly heavy at five and half pounds, or two and half kilograms. It is not unmanageable by any measure, but it is surprising how much they have packed in there. All of the technology is used to make the HomePod sound as good as it can. Before we can get to how it sounds, you have to set it up.

The Setup

The Setup of the HomePod is just as simple as setting up a pair of AirPods or a pair of Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones. There are seven screens to the entire setup, The steps are: initial setup screen, location, personal requests, terms and conditions, account, and examples for what you can do.

The Sound

One of the things that I am doing, throughout most of the day, is listening to some sort of audio. It could be podcasts, audiobooks, or even music. The last twenty years have mostly been with headphones, and not on speakers that are not very close to my ears.

Apple has position the HomePod as a music speaker first and foremost. It is not easy to describe just how good the sound is. I have tested in four different rooms, the master bedroom, the second bedroom (which really is an office), the living room/dining room, and the bathroom. Each of these rooms are different sizes and have different materials in them. In all of the rooms the HomePod sounds good.

During my initial testing in the living/dining room, which has hardwood floors and is the most open space, it did not sound as good as the other places. Do not get me wrong, it still sounds good, just not as good. I would think that it might be better with two HomePods in that area, but it will not work until iOS 11.3 is available.

One of the tests that I wanted to make sure I did was using the HomePod as a speaker for the Apple TV. I did this with two different items. The first was the latest episode “My Next Guest” starring David Letterman. This was the episode with George Clooney. The second, and one I really wanted to test was a with a movie. In this case, Geostorm. With both of these, and both of these sounded really good on the HomePod.

Smarts

The HomePod is a high end music speaker and a smart speaker second. Siri on the HomePod is more limited in what it can do, as compared to an iPhone. It can perform some functions, particularly related music. If, during setup, you opted to allow personal requests, it can perform some of those tasks. When I tested adding information to an existing note, it did work, however it took several minutes for it to arrive, which is not typical when adding notes from other iOS-based devices, or even a Mac.

When using the phrase “Hey Siri”, the HomePod can most definitely hear further than any other Siri-enabled device. I was a couple rooms away and the HomePod heard me without any issues. This is really convenient. And I did not even have to yell, or even raise my voice in order to have Siri hear me.

Frustrations

The HomePod is a voice-only device, which in and of itself is not a problem, however with other iOS devices around, it can be an issue. Normally I have my iPhone wherever I go, and sometimes I have my iPad as well. When I uttered the trigger phrase, “Hey Siri”, the HomePod and iPhone would do a quick determination of who will take the request, which was usually the HomePod, the iPhone would dismiss Siri. However, the iPad never entered into this determination. It always perform whatever action I asked of the HomePod or iPhone.

Closing Thoughts, For Now

I have not determined where the HomePod will ultimately end up. I have been moving it between the master bedroom and second bedroom, depending on where I am doing things. The final answer may be for me to buy a second HomePod and keep two of them in different rooms, but this is not a cheap solution. So far, I am enjoying the HomePod. After I have had some extended time to test it, and really put it through its pace, I will write a full review.