After a delay, Apple has released its first entry into the smart speaker space. Reviews are now out for the Apple HomePod, and there’s a large amount of consensus about the device’s strengths and weaknesses.
Most reviewers agree that the HomePod has excellent sound quality. Apple had touted those specs when it first announced the new product, but TechCrunch goes so far as to call it “easily the best sounding mainstream smart speaker ever.” The Verge offered some behind-the-scenes details about the exact nature of the speakers and their wall-of-sound power.
The central criticism for most reviewers is how tightly gated the speaker is within Apple’s ecosystem. You can only use one with an iPhone; there’s no support for Android phones or tablets. The speaker also can only directly play content from a few Apple-centric sources. Accessing Spotify or Pandora requires that you use your phone and AirPlay the content to the speaker. “Unless you have an exhaustive database of music you purchased on iTunes, you’re going to need an Apple Music subscription,” CNET writes.
A few reviewers also deemed Siri’s voice AI not yet good enough to handle this type of at-home listening experience. The New York Times called the Siri engagement “embarrassingly inadequate” and less functional than Siri voice interactions you’d seek out on your iPhone.