January 30, 2018

Is the HomePod for me?

By Rom Feria

Apple’s smart speaker, the HomePod, will start to ship next month (Feb 9), in the US, UK and Australia. At USD349, it is not cheap! That being said, I am tempted to get one, but is it for me?

First off, I am deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem! “Hey Siri!” is a familiar phrase that I speak to launch applications, set timers, reminders, call and message friends and family, send email, play/pause music, start/stop workouts, turn on lights and even lock and unlock my door. Adding a HomePod to the mix makes sense, right?

Second, I have an Amazon Echo Dot. Yes, the smallest and cheapest smart speaker from Amazon. It is in our kitchen, and serves as the kitchen timer, and Spotify controller (no Apple Music support). Sometimes, I use it to “read” news. In some rare occassions, I use it to call friends who have an Amazon Echo. And no, I don’t use it to control my lights or door. This pretty much sums up my use cases for the voice-activated smart speaker. True that there are a lot of third-party skills available, but I don’t use them.

Is there room for another smart speaker?

I do not intend to get another Amazon Echo, regardless of model, as the use-cases obviously don’t justify getting one. Even with the new ones with screens, which might be good for watching videos, but then again, I don’t see myself using it that often.

A Google Home might be a candidate, too. However, I stay away from anything Google, as they collect data, which they use to profile you for profit! Yes, even if you buy an actual product from them (which gives them revenue already), they still collect your data. I wouldn’t trust them, specially with a device that is always on, listening. Besides, the high-end model, at USD 399 is a tad more expensive than the HomePod.

These pretty much sums up my answer — no, buying a smart speaker is not in the picture.

Is there room for a speaker?

Ah, this one is simple to answer — YES! I have my eyes on the Sonos Play:1 and the Sonos One (with built-in Amazon Alexa) since March 2017! There is no Amazon Echo model or Google Home model that matches the sound quality of the Sonos!

Currently, the Sonos Play:1 is less than half of what the HomePod costs, and you can get two Sonos Ones for the price of the HomePod. Tempting, really. However, two things are keeping me at bay: (1) Play:1 has no voice-support, unless you connect it to the Amazon Echo, and (2) the One has limited Amazon Alexa support. In other words, voice-control is limited.

HomePod it is then!

All things point to the HomePod now! I have written all the reasons to justify me getting one. 😉 However, will I get one?

The answer is “NO!” Unfortunately, the USD 349 is still too steep a price point for me. I am no audiophile, and besides, the AirPods pretty much gives me everything a smart speaker can do, except fill up the room with sound. When Apple gives us the HomePod Mini (USD199?) and the HomePod Nano (USD99?) this July (yeah, wishful thinking, which I doubt since Apple will not compete with the Echo and Home at the low USD30 price points), then that is another story!

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