In a Bloomberg article, Apple’s Stumbling HomePod Isn’t the Hot Seller It Wanted, Mark Gurman points out that Apple’s HomePod is more or less a failure. This device that was slated to be revolutionary – combining a smart speaker and “excellent” audio quality – is not flying of the shelves as Apple had hoped.
At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. “Even when people had the ability to hear these things,” he says, “it still didn’t give Apple another spike.”
The device was released later than Apple had announced, missing the important Christmas holiday season. It’s overpriced; at $349, it is much more expensive than other smart speakers, and more expensive than decent sounding standalone speakers. (Heck, you can buy a decent amplifier and bookshelf speakers for that price.) And the sound isn’t as great as Apple had advertised. The main problem is an excess of bass, and there are no equalization controls so listeners can tune the sound to their tastes, and not to Apple’s.
I immediately realized the device’s limitations, notably that the audio quality is good at times, but crappy at others. But,
I did find that, playing music from iTunes, with the Bass Reducer setting on the Equalizer, much of the music sounded better. There was less booming bass, and more subtle sounds. But no matter what, the midrange is weak on a speaker like this.
And the whole Siri thing? Trying to get Siri to recognize what music I want to hear? It certainly hears my voice, but any song, album, or artist names that are a bit obscure get converted to some weird sound-alikes, making it useless to control it by voice.
It does have some very good features, such as its variable loudness, that adjusts the bass and treble as you change the volume, and with the appropriate EQ, it sounds okay, but I’d get similar sound from a speaker at half the price. As is often the case, Apple uses a lot of buzz words to describe the technology in the device – and there is some cool technology – but these smarts don’t do much for the sound.
Apple may be hoping for a sales boost when they finally get around to releasing AirPlay 2, which is several months overdue, and which will enable the use of two HomePods as a stereo pair, but I can’t see a lot of people paying a total of $700 to have mediocre sound, without any EQ controls, and a flawed personal assistant.
Apple clearly doesn’t understand the market. They thought that they could convince people to spend more for a speaker that combines smarts and sound, but offered neither. Siri is limited and flawed, and the sound just isn’t good enough for a speaker at that price. I use mine in the bedroom, with Siri turned off, for occasional listening, and I don’t regret buying it, but I wouldn’t recommend the HomePod to anyone.