Apple HomePod Review: Super Sound, but Not Super Smart

With the Apple HomePod, the cotton that has been in our ears since the arrival of the first smart speaker has been removed. The HomePod sounds far better than the popular smart speakers from Amazon, Google–and even Sonos.

But will anyone care? That’s what I’ve been asking myself during my week testing the HomePod, which goes on sale Friday for $350.

At the talking speaker party, Apple’s HomePod isn’t just fashionably late–it’s late late. In the last three years, Amazon Echo and Google Home have set tens of millions of us at ease with speakers that listen for our commands.

At the talking speaker party, Apple’s HomePod isn’t just fashionably late–it’s late late. In the last three years,

Of course, Apple has a long history of crushing incumbents–see MP3 players and smartphones. This time feels different, though, and not because the HomePod costs more than three times as much as an Echo . In the smart-speaker equation, the HomePod nails the speaker but struggles at smart.

Of course, Apple has a long history of crushing incumbents–see MP3 players and smartphones. This time feels different, though, and not because the HomePod costs more than three times as much as

Whether you want the HomePod in your home depends on what the speaker does after you say the magic words, “Hey Siri.”

About 2 minutes into the song, you can hear everything Apple engineered the HomePod to be. The horns surge, the tom-toms thunder, the guitar and bass keep pounding, yet I can also hear distinct band members yelling “Tusk.” I could hear it all while walking around the speaker at my kitchen island.

On the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, that part of the song sounds like mush. The $200 Alexa-enabled Sonos One gave the HomePod the stiffest competition, yet even with it I couldn’t distinguish as many of the instruments–on “Tusk” and other test songs.

gave the HomePod the stiffest competition, yet even with it I couldn’t distinguish as many of the instruments–on “Tusk” and other test songs.

There’s a but: Apple’s tuning of the bass. The HomePod’s bass is impressive for the size of the speaker, but in many songs, it’s far too front-and-center in the mix. If we can trim the bass and treble in our cars, why not on your speaker, Apple?

The HomePod can only stream music directly from Apple Music–no Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora or any third-party streaming music service. Despite its Bluetooth, you can’t pair an Android phone, and you must use Apple’s proprietary AirPlay to stream music (including Spotify) from Macs, iPhones and iPads. (Amazon and Google’s speakers support various streaming services and Bluetooth pairing.)

“That’s very loud, are you sure?” Siri warns. That’s because even though the HomePod is only the height of three stacked New York bagels (sans schmear), it has some mean volume. When I put the HomePod on stage at a 450-seat theater, I could hear Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” beautifully from the last row.

The $400 throw-pillow-sized Google Home Max is certainly louder, but not in a good way. At top volume, there was often distortion. And Google’s microphones struggled–far more than the HomePod–to hear me yell, “TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!!” Throughout my testing, the HomePod’s six microphones were very snappy to respond to “Hey Siri” commands.

I wasn’t able to test two HomePods acting as a stereo pair, or in sync in multiple rooms. Apple says those features will show up in software this year.

Stumping Siri wasn’t as easy as it has been –it knew state capitals, kitchen measurements and the year “Friends” premiered. But Alexa and Google Assistant not only knew more answers, they could better parse my questions. When I asked, “Who is the prime minister of England?” they both correctly named Theresa May. On the HomePod, Siri only knew the answer when I asked, more appropriately, “Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?”

–it knew state capitals, kitchen measurements and the year “Friends” premiered. But Alexa and Google Assistant not only knew more answers, they could better parse my questions. When I asked, “Who is the prime minister of England?” they both correctly named Theresa May. On the HomePod, Siri only knew the answer when I asked, more appropriately, “Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?”

There are other problems I won’t shut up about: Many people will put a HomePod in the kitchen, yet it can’t set two simultaneous cooking timers. It can’t wake me up to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” either. Echo and Google Home can do both. Apple says it is improving Siri all the time.

The HomePod has an iPhone processor and pairs with your iPhone–yet it can’t make a phone call? To use it as a speakerphone, you need to start the call on your iPhone then select the HomePod as an audio source. You can, however, send text messages from the HomePod with just your voice.

There are more things the HomePod can’t do, despite being hooked to your iCloud account and iPhone. It can’t tell you your next calendar appointment. It can’t alert you to new emails or texts. It’s also missing crucial third-party apps like Uber and Venmo.

Siri turns out to be quite a good butler. Through the Home app, you can set up various HomeKit-compatible smart-home devices, and the voice prompts to control them. With Philips Hue lightbulbs and three iHome smart plugs, I was quickly commanding Siri to change my nightlight to a fuchsia hue, make tea via my electric kettle and turn on the humidifier.

For all the improvements Apple has made to HomeKit , however, the Home app remains an abyss of confusing menus and hard-to-find toggles. Plus, Alexa and Google Assistant support far more smart-home products, including the popular Nest thermostats.

, however, the Home app remains an abyss of confusing menus and hard-to-find toggles. Plus, Alexa and Google Assistant support far more smart-home products, including the popular Nest thermostats.

The HomePod has a circular touch screen up top that indicates when Siri is listening. Annoyingly, its placement makes it difficult to see from across the room. There’s no physical off button for the mic; if you want it to stop listening, you have to say so.

Respect for your privacy may be one of the top HomePod selling points. While Google and Amazon upload recordings of your queries associated with your account, Apple anonymizes and encrypts anything it uploads to its servers.

If you’re an Apple Music user, the HomePod is the best matching speaker. There is a very close second though. The Sonos One now comes with Alexa, and Google Assistant is expected to arrive this year. It already plays Apple Music via the Sonos app. And Sonos is now offering two Ones for the price of a HomePod.

It really comes down to what you want your speaker to do. If you want the smartest smart speaker, this isn’t it. But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod isn’t a dumb choice.

See Also : Apple HomePod Review: Super Sound, but Not Super Smart

With the Apple HomePod, the cotton that has been in our ears since the arrival of the first smart speaker has been removed. The HomePod sounds far better than the popular smart speakers from Amazon, Google–and even Sonos.

But will anyone care? That’s what I’ve been asking myself during my week testing the HomePod, which goes on sale Friday for $350.

At the talking speaker party, Apple’s HomePod isn’t just fashionably late–it’s late late. In the last three years, Amazon Echo and Google Home have set tens of millions of us at ease with speakers that listen for our commands.

At the talking speaker party, Apple’s HomePod isn’t just fashionably late–it’s late late. In the last three years,

Of course, Apple has a long history of crushing incumbents–see MP3 players and smartphones. This time feels different, though, and not because the HomePod costs more than three times as much as an Echo . In the smart-speaker equation, the HomePod nails the speaker but struggles at smart.

Of course, Apple has a long history of crushing incumbents–see MP3 players and smartphones. This time feels different, though, and not because the HomePod costs more than three times as much as

Whether you want the HomePod in your home depends on what the speaker does after you say the magic words, “Hey Siri.”

About 2 minutes into the song, you can hear everything Apple engineered the HomePod to be. The horns surge, the tom-toms thunder, the guitar and bass keep pounding, yet I can also hear distinct band members yelling “Tusk.” I could hear it all while walking around the speaker at my kitchen island.

On the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, that part of the song sounds like mush. The $200 Alexa-enabled Sonos One gave the HomePod the stiffest competition, yet even with it I couldn’t distinguish as many of the instruments–on “Tusk” and other test songs.

gave the HomePod the stiffest competition, yet even with it I couldn’t distinguish as many of the instruments–on “Tusk” and other test songs.

There’s a but: Apple’s tuning of the bass. The HomePod’s bass is impressive for the size of the speaker, but in many songs, it’s far too front-and-center in the mix. If we can trim the bass and treble in our cars, why not on your speaker, Apple?

The HomePod can only stream music directly from Apple Music–no Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora or any third-party streaming music service. Despite its Bluetooth, you can’t pair an Android phone, and you must use Apple’s proprietary AirPlay to stream music (including Spotify) from Macs, iPhones and iPads. (Amazon and Google’s speakers support various streaming services and Bluetooth pairing.)

“That’s very loud, are you sure?” Siri warns. That’s because even though the HomePod is only the height of three stacked New York bagels (sans schmear), it has some mean volume. When I put the HomePod on stage at a 450-seat theater, I could hear Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” beautifully from the last row.

The $400 throw-pillow-sized Google Home Max is certainly louder, but not in a good way. At top volume, there was often distortion. And Google’s microphones struggled–far more than the HomePod–to hear me yell, “TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!!” Throughout my testing, the HomePod’s six microphones were very snappy to respond to “Hey Siri” commands.

I wasn’t able to test two HomePods acting as a stereo pair, or in sync in multiple rooms. Apple says those features will show up in software this year.

Stumping Siri wasn’t as easy as it has been –it knew state capitals, kitchen measurements and the year “Friends” premiered. But Alexa and Google Assistant not only knew more answers, they could better parse my questions. When I asked, “Who is the prime minister of England?” they both correctly named Theresa May. On the HomePod, Siri only knew the answer when I asked, more appropriately, “Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?”

–it knew state capitals, kitchen measurements and the year “Friends” premiered. But Alexa and Google Assistant not only knew more answers, they could better parse my questions. When I asked, “Who is the prime minister of England?” they both correctly named Theresa May. On the HomePod, Siri only knew the answer when I asked, more appropriately, “Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?”

There are other problems I won’t shut up about: Many people will put a HomePod in the kitchen, yet it can’t set two simultaneous cooking timers. It can’t wake me up to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” either. Echo and Google Home can do both. Apple says it is improving Siri all the time.

The HomePod has an iPhone processor and pairs with your iPhone–yet it can’t make a phone call? To use it as a speakerphone, you need to start the call on your iPhone then select the HomePod as an audio source. You can, however, send text messages from the HomePod with just your voice.

There are more things the HomePod can’t do, despite being hooked to your iCloud account and iPhone. It can’t tell you your next calendar appointment. It can’t alert you to new emails or texts. It’s also missing crucial third-party apps like Uber and Venmo.

Siri turns out to be quite a good butler. Through the Home app, you can set up various HomeKit-compatible smart-home devices, and the voice prompts to control them. With Philips Hue lightbulbs and three iHome smart plugs, I was quickly commanding Siri to change my nightlight to a fuchsia hue, make tea via my electric kettle and turn on the humidifier.

For all the improvements Apple has made to HomeKit , however, the Home app remains an abyss of confusing menus and hard-to-find toggles. Plus, Alexa and Google Assistant support far more smart-home products, including the popular Nest thermostats.

, however, the Home app remains an abyss of confusing menus and hard-to-find toggles. Plus, Alexa and Google Assistant support far more smart-home products, including the popular Nest thermostats.

The HomePod has a circular touch screen up top that indicates when Siri is listening. Annoyingly, its placement makes it difficult to see from across the room. There’s no physical off button for the mic; if you want it to stop listening, you have to say so.

Respect for your privacy may be one of the top HomePod selling points. While Google and Amazon upload recordings of your queries associated with your account, Apple anonymizes and encrypts anything it uploads to its servers.

If you’re an Apple Music user, the HomePod is the best matching speaker. There is a very close second though. The Sonos One now comes with Alexa, and Google Assistant is expected to arrive this year. It already plays Apple Music via the Sonos app. And Sonos is now offering two Ones for the price of a HomePod.

It really comes down to what you want your speaker to do. If you want the smartest smart speaker, this isn’t it. But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod isn’t a dumb choice.

See Also : Apple HomePod review: locked in – The Verge

I don’t think I’ve ever described a tech product as “lonely” before, but it’s the word I thought about the most as I was reviewing Apple’s new HomePod.

The HomePod, whether Apple likes it or not, is the company’s answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it’s entirely focused on sound quality, but it’s entering a market where Amazon is advertising Alexa as a lovable and well-known character during the Super Bowl instead of promoting its actual features. Our shared expectations about smart speakers are beginning to settle in, and outside of engineering labs and controlled listening tests, the HomePod has to measure up.

The HomePod, whether Apple likes it or not, is the company’s answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it’s entirely focused on sound quality, but it’s entering a market where Amazon is advertising Alexa as a lovable and well-known character

instead of promoting its actual features. Our shared expectations about smart speakers are beginning to settle in, and outside of engineering labs and controlled listening tests, the HomePod has to measure up.

And while it’s true that the HomePod sounds incredible — it sounds far better than any other speaker in its price range — it also demands that you live entirely inside Apple’s ecosystem in a way that even Apple’s other products do not.

The question is: is beautiful sound quality worth locking yourself even more tightly into a walled garden?

Nothing about the HomePod when you see it in person is what you’d expect. It’s been both smaller and larger than people I’ve shown it to have thought, as it’s so minimally designed that it’s hard to get a sense of scale from photographs. It’s also heavier than it looks, and it doesn’t feel at all like other speakers: the outside is wrapped in a custom spongy mesh fabric Apple proudly told me was developed by its “soft materials team.” I do not know if that team has any cats, but I suspect cats are going to love the HomePod.

The HomePod’s power cord is built in and wrapped in fabric, and on top, there are LED-backlit volume buttons and a “display” that isn’t really a display at all — it’s LEDs under a cloudy glass panel that diffuses them into a single blob of swirling colors. There’s no obvious way to make this area show anything with precise lines, like an interface; Apple told me it was designed to be a touch surface, not to display text. On the bottom is a hard, rubbery material. You need to place the HomePod on a hard, flat surface: most of its speakers fire down, and it sounds pretty bad if you set it on something uneven or soft. But most of the time, it sounds excellent.

I have been incredibly curious about how the HomePod actually works since it was first announced, and it turns out the answers are even more interesting than I anticipated. Apple invited me and other journalists to tour its audio labs in Cupertino with Phil Schiller, hardware VP Kate Bergeron, and senior director of audio design and engineering Gary Greaves. I also spent time talking to some of the engineers who worked on the HomePod to dive into the details, and what the HomePod does while playing music is far more involved than you’d expect.

The HomePod isn’t just one speaker, it’s actually eight of them, all controlled by Apple’s own A8 processor and tons of custom software. There are seven tweeters that fire down and out from the bottom, and a single four-inch woofer pointing out of the top for low frequencies. There is also a total of seven microphones: six around the middle for Siri, and a seventh inside that measures the location of that woofer so Apple can precisely control the bass.

What’s important to understand is that all of these speakers and software aren’t trying to add anything to music; you’re not getting 3D audio or wacky surround effects or anything like that. Apple’s goal is to eliminate unwanted extra sounds you might get from reflections in the room the HomePod is sitting in. It’s then trying to tune to the speaker to sound as neutral as possible in that room, and this process is very, very involved.

anything to music; you’re not getting 3D audio or wacky surround effects or anything like that. Apple’s goal is to

unwanted extra sounds you might get from reflections in the room the HomePod is sitting in. It’s then trying to tune to the speaker to sound as neutral as possible in that room, and this process is very, very involved.

When you set down a HomePod and play music, it goes through a number of steps to tune itself. First, it tries to create a model of the room it’s in by detecting the sounds reflecting off walls. It does this in two passes: the first pass builds a model to a high degree of initial confidence, and the second pass refines the model. This happens faster if you’re playing music with a lot of bass.

Then, it creates a virtual array of soundbeams using that seven-tweeter array. Placed near a wall, the HomePod creates three beams: one pointed out the front for “direct” sounds like vocals and guitars, and two pointed at the wall to reflect “ambient” sounds like applause and room noises. This is called “beamforming,” and it’s a nifty, complicated idea; Apple told me it has something like 200 patents for the HomePod.

So the HomePod is using all seven physical speakers to create an array of virtual speakers and assigning those virtual speakers different parts of the music for increased clarity and bass. It’s not trying to create wide stereo separation — later this year, you’ll be able to pair two HomePods for that — it’s just trying to get as much from the audio you’re playing as possible, while eliminating the effects of the room you’re in.

To figure out what to play on those direct and ambient soundbeams, the HomePod compares the left and right channels of the song and figures out what sounds are mixed more prominently and what sounds are mixed into the background. Prominent sounds are sent to the direct soundbeam, and background sounds are sent to the ambient soundbeams. Apple told me the process is similar to what surround sound systems have long done to upmix stereo audio so it plays on all your speakers, but it’s a very different application of that basic idea.

In terms of ideas I’m into, a virtual array of soundbeams that points guitar solos at my face is super high on the list.

While all of this is happening, that seventh microphone inside the HomePod measures the position of the subwoofer as the other six mics measure the reflections of bass in the room, and it adjusts the bass output constantly to keep it from overwhelming the rest of the music. I asked Apple directly what the buzzword salad of “transparent studio-level dynamic processing” means on the HomePod spec sheet, and it refers to tuning the bass response in this way: it’s a custom multiband compressor that’s constantly tweaking the bass levels. And because the HomePod knows about the bass driver’s specific position and the sound it’s creating in the room, it can push it right up to the edge of distortion in a way normal speakers can’t.

The wild thing is that all of this happens at once, without needing any help from you, within about 10 seconds of playing music for the first time. If you move the HomePod, an accelerometer detects the motion and does it all over again seamlessly. That’s much faster and simpler than something like Sonos TruePlay, a manual process that requires 45 seconds of waving a phone around the room every time you move the speaker, or the Audyssey calibration systems on home theater gear that take forever to set up correctly.

All of this means the HomePod sounds noticeably richer and fuller than almost every other speaker we’ve tested. You get a surprisingly impressive amount of bass out of it, but you can still hear all of the details in the midrange and the bass never overwhelms the music. And it’s immediately, obviously noticeable: set in a corner of my kitchen, the HomePod sounded so much better than everything else that our video director Phil Esposito went from thinking the whole thing was kind of dumb to actively pointing out that other speakers sounded bad in comparison.

Compared to the HomePod, the Sonos One sounds a little empty and the Google Home Max is a bass-heavy mess — even though Google also does real-time room tuning. The Echo and smaller Google Home aren’t even in the same league. The only comparable speaker that came close in my testing was the Sonos Play:5, which could match the detail and power of the HomePod in some rooms when tuned with Sonos’ TruePlay system. But it also costs more, is larger, and doesn’t have any smart features at all.

The Apple engineers I talked to were very proud of how the HomePod sounds, and for good reason: Apple’s audio engineering team did something really clever and new with the HomePod, and it really works. I’m not sure there’s anything out there that sounds better for the price, or even several times the price.

Unfortunately, Apple’s audio engineering team wasn’t in charge of just putting out a speaker. It was in charge of the audio components of a smart speaker, one that simply isn’t as smart as its competitors.

Here’s what’s good about Siri on the HomePod: the microphones are terrific at detecting the “Hey Siri” wake command. It was better at hearing me over loud music than my other smart speakers, and very good at hearing me from across rooms with weird echoes. You can ask Siri to tell you more about the music that’s playing on the HomePod, and it will tell you things like who’s playing the bass on a given track. That’s neat.

Apple told me that while researching what most people ask their smart speakers for, it found that music the most popular use, asking for the weather is second, and setting timers and reminders is third. So it’s baffling that the HomePod can’t set more than one timer or name those timers; anyone who cooks with a smart speaker in their kitchen knows how incredibly useful that is.

You can’t ask Siri to look up a recipe. You can’t ask Siri to make a phone call. (You have to start the phone call on your phone and transfer it to the HomePod to use it as a just-okay speakerphone.) Siri also can’t compete with the huge array of Alexa skills, or Google Assistant’s ability to answer a vast variety of questions.

You can’t ask Siri to play something on an Apple TV, as both Google and Amazon’s assistants can do with their respective TV devices. It’s also very inconvenient to use the HomePod as a TV speaker: you can set an Apple TV to AirPlay to it, but it drops that connection when you play music again, and you have go back into the Apple TV’s settings to select the HomePod again every time. There’s no way to get other TV sources like a PlayStation or your cable box to play out of the HomePod at all.

Siri as a smart home controller on the HomePod works fine if you have compatible devices and have done the work of setting up HomeKit, but nothing about HomeKit is particularly simple or fun to use. But that’s basically the state of every smart home system, so I don’t think Apple’s too far behind there.

And, in the worst omission, Siri on the HomePod doesn’t recognize different voices. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you just click yes during all the setup prompts, literally anyone can ask the HomePod to send or read your text messages. Seriously, it’ll just read your texts to anyone if your phone is anywhere on the same Wi-Fi network, which usually reaches far beyond the same room as the HomePod. If your HomePod is in the kitchen and you’re in the basement, anyone can just roll up on the HomePod and have it read your texts. If you have kids, they can just text anyone at will while you’re in the bathroom and you can’t stop it. I tried it with the HomePod behind a closed door and it picked up my voice and it happily read my texts aloud, a nightmare for anyone who lives in a dorm.

This is also baffling: iPhones don’t answer to just anyone saying “Hey Siri” once you’ve trained them to your voice, and the HomePod runs a variant of iOS on an A8 chip, which allows for “Hey Siri” on the iPhone 6 when it’s plugged into the wall. I asked Apple about this, and there wasn’t a clear answer apart from noting that the personal requests feature that enables texting can be turned off. I agree: until Apple adds personalized voice recognition to this thing, you should definitely turn personal requests off.

Look, Siri has been behind its competitors for some time now, and the HomePod doesn’t move it forward in any notable way. Two timers and telling people apart when they speak. That’s the bar.

The biggest limitation of the HomePod is how tightly it’s tied to Apple Music. I am an Apple Music subscriber, and I use it as my primary music service on my phones and Sonos system. Apple Music is also growing in popularity: The W all Street Journal just reported that it’s on pace to overtake Spotify in terms of paying subscribers in the US this summer.

The biggest limitation of the HomePod is how tightly it’s tied to Apple Music. I am an Apple Music subscriber, and I use it as my primary music service on my phones and Sonos system. Apple Music is also growing in popularity:

In general, however, Spotify has way more subscribers than Apple Music, and the HomePod doesn’t even really know Spotify exists. The HomePod also doesn’t really know that Pandora exists or Tidal or Google Play Music or SiriusXM or TuneIn Radio or SoundCloud or any of a thousand other music services that you might use throughout the course of listening to music in your lifetime. It’s an incredibly frustrating limitation: Amazon owns Amazon Music, but lets you set Spotify as the default on the Echo. Google runs Google Play Music and YouTube, but lets you set Spotify at the default on the Google Home.

You can play music from other services on the HomePod over AirPlay from your phone, but you lose most of the voice controls apart from play, pause, and volume when you do that. (Third-party music apps can be updated to tell the HomePod what track they’re playing over AirPlay so you can ask Siri for music trivia, however.)

Tightly tying hardware to software and services is at the core of Apple’s DNA, so complaining about Spotify might seem ridiculous here. The iPod didn’t work so well with other music stores, after all. But streaming music services really just offer access to music, especially on a screenless device you control with your voice. It doesn’t matter if you’re paying Spotify or Apple or Tidal when you ask for a song; you just want it to play. Apple Music doesn’t make the HomePod better in any particular way — just more limited. I’d bet a lot of serious audio nerds would love to send that brilliant speaker array uncompressed audio from Tidal if they could. You can do it over AirPlay; it’s not at all clear why Apple won’t let you do it with your voice as well.

In any event, Apple Music doesn’t offer any tools to make importing your Spotify playlists simple, and while I think the HomePod sounds amazing, I don’t think it sounds so good that it’s worth that much pain.

If I had to bet, I would say that 99 percent of people will never compare a HomePod and, say, a Sonos One head-to-head in their kitchen. And if you don’t do that, you will never know that the HomePod can put out more bass and clearer mids than the Sonos One. You will instead think that the Sonos One sounds extremely good for its size and price while offering you the ability to use virtually any music service, including Spotify and Apple Music, and working with Amazon Alexa and (eventually) Google Assistant.

That’s really the crux of it: the HomePod sounds incredible, but not so world-bendingly amazing that you should switch away from Spotify, or accept Siri’s frustrating limitations as compared to Alexa.

Apple’s ecosystem lock-in is actively working against a remarkable product with the HomePod, and I say that as someone who uses Apple Music as their primary music service. Sometimes I want to listen to a radio station from TuneIn or SiriusXM; sometimes I want to just let Pandora handle it. Sometimes I want to ask the voice assistant in my house a random question and get a useful answer. And sometimes I want to have people over without remembering to turn off the feature that lets them access my text messages when I’m not in the room.

All of this is why I started thinking of the HomePod as “lonely.” It feels like it was designed for a very demanding person to use while living alone entirely inside Apple’s ecosystem. It’s tied more closely to a single iPhone and iCloud account than any other smart speaker, and Siri has none of the capability or vibrancy of what’s happening with Alexa. Apple can try to move mountains by itself, or it can recognize that the HomePod is a little iOS computer for the home and let developers build on it as they have for so long and with such great success with the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

The HomePod is a remarkable new kind of audio device. It does more to make music sound better than any other speaker of this kind has ever done before, and it really, truly works. But unless you live entirely inside Apple’s walled garden and prioritize sound quality over everything else, I think you’re better served by other smart speakers that sound almost as good and offer the services and capabilities that actually fit your life.