Apple’s HomePod smart speaker arrived on Friday, after a delay from December. This speaker, that was first announced in June at Apple’s WWDC conference, has been highly anticipated since it was revealed.
But the question for many Apple fans is whether the HomePod lives up to its potential.
Design of the HomePod
The HomePod is a cylinder that measures, 6.8 inches high (172 mm) by 5.6 inches wide (142 mm), with seven speakers around it.
Six microphones are inside the HomePod to listen to you and to determine the best audio output for sound. Wherever you place the HomePod in your home, it will figure out the optimal sound quality for the shape of the space. You don’t need to adjust the settings or mess with an app, it just works.
There’s no audio in or audio out jack to connect the HomePod to another device with a cable. You stream sound from other devices to the HomePod using AirPlay.
The Sound Quality of the HomePod
The best part of the HomePod is its sound quality.Whether or not you’re a sound expert, you are bound to be impressed with the audio quality of the HomePod.
The sound fills the room, quickly spoiling you for other speakers. You may soon want all sound to be played through the HomePod.
As of now, two HomePod speakers cannot be connected to play in tandem, though Apple does promise this will happen by the end of the year. When it does, expect HomePod fans to invest in a second device for maximum enjoyment.
Connecting the HomePod
When you first set up the HomePod, you plug it in and put your iPhone or iPad within two inches (5.08 cm) of it. Then a notice to pair it will show up on your screen.
You must have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on and be on the same Wi-Fi network as your HomePod. You also must have an iPhone, iPad or iPod. Android users move along, there’s nothing to see here…
You pair HomePod with your Apple account associated with your device so it can connect to your iCloud services, such as iMessage, Reminders and Lists.
When I tried to connect my iPhone, the notice to pair didn’t appear, even though I put it next to the HomePod. But the notice did appear on my iPad, even though it was across the room. So I was able to connect the HomePod using my iPad.
Connecting the HomePod to my iPad and my Apple account was simple and took under a minute to do. I originally named my HomePod Living Room, but changed it later.
The HomePod connects using AirPlay. You can connect the HomePod to play sounds from your iPhone and iPad, by choosing that source from within the app.
If an app doesn’t have the option to choose the audio source, open an app that does have that option (such as a music or podcast app), then choose HomePod. Then open the app you want to send to HomePod and the sound should go from that app to HomePod.
You can also choose the HomePod as your audio source from your Apple Watch with some apps. Try pressing and holding your Watch screen with an app open to send the sound to HomePod.
Using the HomePod
To use the HomePod, use your voice saying, “Hey, Siri” and then say your command or ask a question. The HomePod should respond by doing what you say, such as playing music, or answering your question.
Even with music blasting from its speakers, HomePod will recognize your voice as you say “Hey, Siri” in a quiet tone. No need to yell at HomePod, music will pause while Siri listens for your command.
HomePod also has touch commands. Tap the + button to increase the volume and the – button to lower the volume. Tap once to play or pause the music, twice to fast forward to the next song and three times to rewind to the beginning of the song. Tap and hold to access Siri without saying “Hey Siri.” Instructions for these commands come with the HomePod.
You can use HomePod as a speakerphone. When you make or receive a call, use the Phone app to direct the call to your HomePod.
You cannot start or receive calls directly on the HomePod though. You must do that and then transfer the call to HomePod.
Use Siri on the HomePod to control your smart home devices that are compatible with Apple HomeKit.
The Home App
The Home app on your iPhone or iPad lets you control the HomePod, including adjusting the settings, renaming it, changing the room it’s in, and more. The Apple HomePod support page explains how to use the Home app to change HomePod settings.
From this app you can adjust settings such as choosing who can use your HomePod, including:
- Anyone connected to your Wi-Fi network
- People you invite using Home Sharing
You can also require a password to be entered to use the HomePod.
The Home app also let you change Siri’s voice to male or female, with US, UK or Australian voices. You can also block explicit content from playing from Apple Music on the HomePod.
Performing Tasks Using the HomePod
Siri on the HomePod can perform tasks such as sending and reading text messages, and setting up Notes, Lists, Alarms and Reminders.
You must turn on Personal Requests in the Home app on your phone to use these features.
HomePod and Apple TV
You can connect your Apple TV to your HomePod so that the sound from the video you’re playing on Apple TV comes through the HomePod. Both your Apple TV and HomePod must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
Warning, HomePod audio quality may spoil you for the sound coming through the TV when you’re not using your Apple TV.
To use your HomePod with Apple TV, go into Settings on your Apple TV => Video and Audio => Audio Output => HomePod.
Unfortunately, the connection between the two devices drops so you must reconnect them after the Apple TV has been turned off of gone into Sleep mode, or if you listen to something else using your HomePod.
I listened to the theme song from a Game of Thrones episode using HomePod connected to the Apple TV. I heard background sounds in the song I had never heard before and really enjoyed the experience of listening to the Apple TV through the HomePod
HomePod and Apple Music
If you’re a user of Apple Music and its 45 million songs, the reasons for getting a HomePod are increased. You can ask Siri on HomePod to play a song, album, genre, mood, activity, artist or one of your playlists. Ask her to repeat, shuffle, skip ahead or back, pause and play.
Siri on HomePod can tell also you what song is playing on Apple Music.
HomePod is available from Apple for $349. Currently, Siri on the HomePod is available in English for the US, UK and Australia.
Black (Space Gray) or white are your color choices for the HomePod, you can choose whichever looks best with your home decor.
My Wish List for the HomePod
Using the HomePod makes me see the potential for this device in the future. As a long time user of Alexa on Amazon Echo, I have expectations for smart speakers that I would like HomePod to fulfill.
I may be asking for a lot, but most of my suggestions involve software updates, though I do have a few hardware wishes.
These are some improvements I’d like to see on HomePod:
Other Names for Siri
I’d like to be able to call Siri on the HomePod some other name, so there is no confusion about which device will respond.
One issue with HomePod is that you use the same command for Siri on the HomePod as you do for Siri on your iPhone, “Hey, Siri.” So if you have other iDevices in the room, or others do, they might respond as well.
According to Apple, your devices should know that you’re directing “Hey, Siri” to the HomePod. But I’ve had both my iPhone and Apple Watch mistakenly believe that I was talking to them instead of the HomePod. My husband’s iPad kept thinking I was talking to it, which was funny at first, then annoying.
“Hey, Siri” doesn’t work well if you have someone in your house with a name similar to Siri. Or if you have others in the house with an Apple device.
Alternative Ways to Connect Sound
Having HomePod be able to connect solely using Bluetooth would be handy. When playing sound through an app there is a delay with the HomePod. For example, I played HQ Trivia using the HomePod for sound and by the time the question was relayed over the HomePod, time was up to answer the question.
The Ability to Connect Two HomePod speakers
Although Apple promises this will happen by the end of 2018, I am eager to connect two HomePods now. As the sound quality of one is so amazing, I am excited to hear what two speakers will sound like.
Alexa has spoiled me for how sophisticated she has become with her thousands of skills. I can make or change calendar appointments using Alexa. But HomePod can’t yet tell me when my next appointment is, even though I use Apple’s calendar.
Even the basic Siri functions are lacking. When watching the Winter Olympics, I asked the HomePod about the time difference between my location and Seoul, Korea. Siri on HomePod didn’t know, but Alexa quickly gave me the answer (14 hours ahead).
Most of what I have asked Siri on HomePod, including basic search functions, she didn’t know or answered wrong. I asked her repeatedly about the weather in Lewes, Delaware. She told me that it was 21°, with a high of 37°. Apple’s Weather app said that Lewes Delaware was 45° with a high of 59°. The app was accurate, HomePod was not.
Connect to Other Music Services
Right now, Apple Music is the only streaming music service you can use directly with Siri on the HomePod. When Echo was first introduced, Amazon Music was the only streaming music service you could use with Alexa, but now you can listen to Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Sirius XM and TuneIn Radio.
Yes, you can use these, and other music services, by using AirPlay with the HomePod. But I’d prefer the ability to control these using your voice with the HomePod, and that would require they be connected directly to the HomePod.
I hope HomePod expands to include other streaming music services.
A Better Way of Knowing When HomePod Is Listening
When you say, “Hey, Siri” and HomePod is listening, the top of the device lights up. But if you’re not in a position to see the top (if it’s on a shelf above you, for example), you won’t know whether it’s hearing you or not.
Amazon’s original Echo has a ring that lights around the top so you can see it if it’s listening from any angle. The Echo light also turns colors, depending on what message it has for you.
I’d like to see a more visible indicator that Siri is listening on the HomePod.
The Echo Show and Echo Spot have touch screens that make Alexa more useful. See, Echo Show Review – How a Screen Makes Alexa More Useful.
I don’t know how Apple would design a screen into the HomePod, but that would be my ideal device (with the other items on my wish list).
Maintain the Connection to Apple TV
After I used my HomePod with Apple TV, I wanted to keep doing so. But having to connect the two each time is inconvenient. Apple TV should have an option to keep the connection to the HomePod or make it simpler to connect the two: “Hey, Siri, connect to the Apple TV.”
Allow Siri to Learn Voices
As you can use the HomePod to send text messages and make phone calls from your Apple account, if you let others use the HomePod, they could do that too. That’s right, they could command Siri on the HomePod to send a text message from you to one of your contacts.
They may not even realize what they’re doing. They may assume that HomePod would send the text message from their account instead.
Alexa gained the ability to learn voices last year. This would be a helpful skill for Siri on the HomePod to learn. Learn more at How to Get Amazon Alexa to Recognize Your Voice for Personal Responses.
If you’re worried about this happening, you can adjust the HomePod settings in the Home app to either block texts from being sent, block others from using the HomePod, or require a password to use the HomePod. But having Siri learn your voice would be more convenient.
The HomePod is fantastic for those with an Apple Music subscription, Apple TV, or those who want a high quality speaker.
For those who don’t have an Apple Music account, or who care more about smarts than sound, may prefer other speakers such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. See, Amazon Echo vs. Google Home — Which Is Best for You?
What do you think of the new HomePod? Would you prefer a smart speaker with better sound or one that is smarter? What would be on your wish list for the HomePod?
Share your thoughts in the Comments Section below!