Initial HomePod Review

HomePod Review

My wife purchased the HomePod for me as a birthday gift. I believe that makes her the best wife ever. We purchased the white HomePod as we were installing in our kitchen and the white color best matches. Looks good. I am doing an early review as I have only had the HomePod for a little less than a week.

As you may have read in multiple places, the setup is very easy. The one caveat in my “homekit” house is that I couldn’t setup my wife’s phone as the HomePod owner as she is not the owner of our homekit house. I had to setup with my phone. In all, even with the initial failure, the setup only took about 2 minutes.

Problem Solver
Many have mentioned that the HomePod does not solve an existing problem that doesn’t already have a solution. In short, there are existing speakers that work with your phone, maybe sans voice control. However, in my house where I have a good surround sound system in the living room it does not serve the rest of the house well and requires some hoops to be jumped through to play music. The HomePod fills a void in my house that is very welcome. Voice controlled music is super convenient. Remember, I am an all Apple household.

I am not an audiophile and perhaps do not have a very distinctive ear for sound. However, I do like to listen to music and find the experience quite pleasant with the HomePod. The one complaint I have is that the speaker is a little quiet. It fills the kitchen/dining room well but to push music through the house I need to set the volume near or just above 80%. Overall sound is very pleasant, full and complete.

Smart Speaker
I do not and will not ever have any other smart speaker in my home so this section of the review may be of limited use to those not immersed in the Apple ecosystem. All of my current home automation is homekit compatible and therefore ties to the HomePod completely. While I often used Siri to control my home (iPhone or Apple Watch) the HomePod makes the experience easier and more natural. My wife has both an iPhone and Apple Watch and never used Siri to control the home. She always opened the Home app and used that functionality. Within an hour of owning the HomePod she has switched completely to voice control. All in all a great experience.

I use Siri for a number of regular tasks in my life such as texting, music and podcast listening as well as home control. However, like many, I can get a little frustrated with Siri not always translating my speech properly into text. In addition, I occasionally have to speak a little louder than I would like to get her attention. The HomePod does not have that problem. The speaking volume does not have to be above normal conversational tones for the HomePod to respond. In fact, there are times when she responds when I am trying to whisper to my iPhone in a separate room. Some have said that the volume of the music being played doesn’t affect the HomePod’s ability to listen. I have not had that same experience. The music volume seems to require a raised volume of speaking to get the HomePod to respond.

Siri is limited on the HomePod but that is not a surprise. Apple has indicated Siri’s HomePod ability and it does those functions quite well. Music knowledge is very fun to interact with and the homekit control is almost instantaneous. Due to the HomePod’s ability to hear quite well I am able to use it to control my home from any room in the house (small house). I do have to speak a bit louder from the master bedroom but all other rooms pick up at reasonable audio levels.

I have had two minor issue with my HomePod. The first is in regards to Location Services. My HomePod does not know where it is so asking for the weather does not work. A couple of hours with Apple Support did not fix the issue. My phone responds properly to the inquiry but with a bit of a twist. While on LTE my phone provides weather for Hinkley, CA, my current location. While on WiFi my phone provides weather from Barstow, CA, the largest local city. This appears to be an issue with where my router table lists its location. However, if my HomePod provided Barstow weather I would be satisfied but it doesn’t. Apple support is blaming the issue on the fact that I am running the public beta on my phone. Easy to blame but since the HomePod uses my phone for location services I don’t necessarily agree with their assessment.

The second issue is the inability to setup the HomePod with an iPhone that is not the “owner” of the homekit home. I wanted to use my wife’s phone as the setup phone but this limitation does not allow. I assume the limitation is due to the HomePod being a homekit hub. While that reasoning is easy to follow it would be nice to switch to my wife’s phone after I used mine to perform the initial setup.

All in all I am super happy with my HomePod. The device is a bit expensive but it has already increase the joy of using voice to control both music and my home. That alone is quickly making the price more bearable.

I, along with others in the Apple tech community, believe that software updates could be frequent in the first months. I hope that is the case and we see marked improvement in the HomePod’s abilities. If and when this happens I will either update this post of write new thoughts after having the HomePod for months instead of days.