HomePod review roundup: Apple's smart speaker sounds incredible, but Siri is lacking

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  • Reply 61 of 151
    Rayz2016 said:
    You know I’m starting to think? I’m thinking that Apple may actually understand its customers better than we do.  You’re right, it will be compared to Alexa and the Google, but in the real world, outside the internet geek kingdom, there are more people buying quality sound systems than buying AI boxes. 


    Or, maybe:   "Hey Siri, Ask Alexa to..."
    edited February 6 zroger73
  • Reply 62 of 151
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,035member
    Rayz2016 said:
    MplsP said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    MplsP said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    “It can’t make phone calls on its own.”

    Yup, neither can my microwave…


    No, but your microwave isn't marketed as 'smart,' doesn't have Siri which is touted as a personal digital assistant. Soli's right - your argument is nonsensical. 

    Like others, this is about as I expected. The good news is, according to the reports, the speaker technology and quality itself justifies the $350 price.

    Actually, my microwave is marketed as smart, (a little too smart for my liking) and it still doesn’t make phone calls. What it does is cook stuff smartly. Apple is not marketing it as a SiriPod, so it is focussed mainly on music, and looking at the video demo it does that very well (though I’m a little shocked she can’t pronounce Tupac correctly). 

    As usual, folk are trying to shoehorn the product into a category they feel comfortable with, rather like analysts who insist Apple can’t possibly be successful because analysts have a very narrow view of what can make a company successful. 

    Personally, i think it’s better to do a few things well, rather than loads of things badly. This is aimed at folk who like music and the Apple ecosystem. Like every other Apple product, it ain’t designed for everybody. 
    Hopefully your smart microwave is smarter than mine. It has a bunch of smart cook and reheat programs that I long ago gave up on using. Every time I tired to use one it ended up horribly overcooking it!

    To your comment about shoehorning the HomePod, I think the problem is that even if Apple intends it to be an exceptional speaker that uses siri to access Apple music services, there are many other similar speakers on the market, and the HomePod will inevitably be compared to those. My concern is that the number of people for whom the superior sound quality trumps the other features and conveniences of other companies' offerings will be fairly small, and they need enough sales to justify the investment of continued software development.
    Mine’s great until you try to improvise. Tell it what you’re cooking, how much of it you’re cooking, and then take it out and stir when it tells you. If you do not follow the instructions, bad stuff happens. 
    For truly digital recipes accessible by a smart device (especially in a smart kitchen), it could instantly be able to scale ingredients and other measures (like cook time) at will. It might even be able to swap out ingredients for a variety of reasons with a single command: "Can you make this recipe vegan," "What can I use in place of sugar?"

  • Reply 63 of 151
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,461member
    Rayz2016 said:
    MplsP said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    MplsP said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    “It can’t make phone calls on its own.”

    Yup, neither can my microwave…


    No, but your microwave isn't marketed as 'smart,' doesn't have Siri which is touted as a personal digital assistant. Soli's right - your argument is nonsensical. 

    Like others, this is about as I expected. The good news is, according to the reports, the speaker technology and quality itself justifies the $350 price.

    Actually, my microwave is marketed as smart, (a little too smart for my liking) and it still doesn’t make phone calls. What it does is cook stuff smartly. Apple is not marketing it as a SiriPod, so it is focussed mainly on music, and looking at the video demo it does that very well (though I’m a little shocked she can’t pronounce Tupac correctly). 

    As usual, folk are trying to shoehorn the product into a category they feel comfortable with, rather like analysts who insist Apple can’t possibly be successful because analysts have a very narrow view of what can make a company successful. 

    Personally, i think it’s better to do a few things well, rather than loads of things badly. This is aimed at folk who like music and the Apple ecosystem. Like every other Apple product, it ain’t designed for everybody. 
    Hopefully your smart microwave is smarter than mine. It has a bunch of smart cook and reheat programs that I long ago gave up on using. Every time I tired to use one it ended up horribly overcooking it!

    To your comment about shoehorning the HomePod, I think the problem is that even if Apple intends it to be an exceptional speaker that uses siri to access Apple music services, there are many other similar speakers on the market, and the HomePod will inevitably be compared to those. My concern is that the number of people for whom the superior sound quality trumps the other features and conveniences of other companies' offerings will be fairly small, and they need enough sales to justify the investment of continued software development.
     You’re right, it will be compared to Alexa and the Google, but in the real world, outside the internet geek kingdom, there are more people buying quality sound systems than buying AI boxes. And it is those people Apple will focus on. 


    Those who already cared deeply about buying quality sound are likely to have done so before the HomePod ever came along IMHO.  But their "quality sound systems" probably didn't offer any home control or personal assistant features. THAT'S what separates the HomePod from other very nice sounding audio systems. You're selling short what value Siri should have.
  • Reply 64 of 151
    I think some of the reviews miss the mark. It isn’t whether one focused on smarts over sound it’s a trade off between sound and price. An Echo or Home don’t sound as good because the top priority was as cheap as possible to get in as many homes as possible. The question that should be asked of Apple is why didn’t they focus on both sound and smarts?  I’m guessing the people working on audio are not the same people working on Siri. Why wasn’t HomePod the product to showcase a much improved Siri so Apple could say Siri is just as smart as the competition but HomePod sounds so much better. I know Siri gets better through software but how many people are going to buy hardware with the promise of better software in the future?
    entropys
  • Reply 65 of 151
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,222member
    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    “It can’t make phone calls on its own.”

    Yup, neither can my microwave…


    That's an under-appreciated feature to be honest. I use it fairly often.
    You make phone calls on your microwave?
  • Reply 66 of 151
    I think some of the reviews miss the mark. It isn’t whether one focused on smarts over sound it’s a trade off between sound and price. An Echo or Home don’t sound as good because the top priority was as cheap as possible to get in as many homes as possible. The question that should be asked of Apple is why didn’t they focus on both sound and smarts?  I’m guessing the people working on audio are not the same people working on Siri. Why wasn’t HomePod the product to showcase a much improved Siri so Apple could say Siri is just as smart as the competition but HomePod sounds so much better. I know Siri gets better through software but how many people are going to buy hardware with the promise of better software in the future?
    Who's to say Apple didn't improve Siri to showcase it on the homePod?

    FWIW, new beta releases dropped today for Xcode, iOS and tvOS (there must be a homePodOS in there somewhere).

    Lately, Apple has dropped public releases shortly after many betas.  

    I suspect that a variant of tvOS will be used on the homePod.


    edited February 6 williamlondon
  • Reply 67 of 151
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,035member
    gatorguy said:
    I wonder if the tech is here (or soon to come ) that would allow the sound of each vocal or instrument (or group of same) to be sent to a different speaker...

    ...So you could separately adjust the volume, etc. of the vocals, woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion...

    If that were possible -- it could revolutionize how we create and listen to audio and video.
    You're referring to something like what is described in this patent?
    https://www.google.com/patents/US20170236531

    Smart guys have been working on that for a few years. I think we're probably really close...
    http://ismir2012.ismir.net/event/papers/559_ISMIR_2012.pdf
    https://books.google.com/books/about/Musical_Instrument_Sound_Separation.html?id=_owJAQAAMAAJ

    I agree with you that when it happens, and it will, it's gonna be a game changer for high-end music. Of course it always filters down to really affordable sound systems/speakers within a relatively short time.
    Yes!

    I suspect that Apple is also working on something like this.  I wonder if Apple's approach is the reason they acquired they Shazam, and possibly FoundationDB.
    One thing I'd like to see with their Shazam purpose is being able to say to Siri "What song is this?" and then proceed to poorly sing the song, speak the lyrics, or even hum a few notes to have it figure it out. I don't know where Shazam left off, but I know that other services had the ability to pick up songs not sung by the original artist.
  • Reply 68 of 151
    elfig2012 said:
    Year after year the same verdict : the limited capabilities of Siri! When is Apple going to make some changes? is it not Apple’s trademark to ‘enhance the user expierence?
    Its getting there, just very slowly.
  • Reply 69 of 151
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 4,996member
    People dissing Siri forget she understands far more languages than the competitors. 

    That at was all the more reason to get this out last year though, and cheaper, as the others are catching up. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 70 of 151
    macguimacgui Posts: 730member
    gatorguy said:
    Those who already cared deeply about buying quality sound are likely to have done so before the HomePod ever came along IMHO.  But their "quality sound systems" probably didn't offer any home control or personal assistant features. THAT'S what separates the HomePod from other very nice sounding audio systems. You're selling short what value Siri should have.
    So there's nobody left to care deeply about music and buy a HomePod?

    'Caring deeply' is a broad and subjective term, as is audio in general. Some people think audio is 'tinny' if it doesn't rattle the license plate frame. Go figure.

    I've bought a ton of various BT speakers to use with my iPads and iPhone, and after a bit they all drain my enthusiasm. Too much bass, weak midrange (lack of presence) and next to no highs. 

    Like many there's very nice stereo audio gear in my living room and bedroom. When I want to kick or lie back, they're my goto choices.

    But I like the convenience of a digital assistant and the Echo dot (in both locations) is very handy. Alway there, always listening and at my beck and call. I can do the same with Siri, if I pick up an iPad or phone, or if I've already plugged them into AC (ok, AC > DC).

    My experience is both Alexa and Siri routinely fail me, but surprisingly, rarely at the same time. So when one doesn't work, the other does. Almost always. Each is better at something the other isn't. So an always-ready Siri would be a good thing for me.

    There are times I don't want to fiddle with my audio gear. I just want to wake up or walk in and listen to music. Not quite as easy with my phone and Homepod as with Alexa, but better sounding. So far, the HP seems like it fits my bill quite well. There will be some improvement in features and function via software and firmware, just like my ˚Watches. I'll be OK with that.

    StrangeDayslollivercornchip
  • Reply 71 of 151
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 4,996member
    mavemufc said:
    elfig2012 said:
    Year after year the same verdict : the limited capabilities of Siri! When is Apple going to make some changes? is it not Apple’s trademark to ‘enhance the user expierence?
    Its getting there, just very slowly.
    The voice quality is much better, the contextual understanding is the same. 
  • Reply 72 of 151
    ...I know Siri gets better through software but how many people are going to buy hardware with the promise of better software in the future?
    Me. I bought one to see how good it sounds. If it's better than my current iPod Hi-Fi setup, I'll pick up a few more. Also, this might be just me, but I don't anticipate using Siri on the device at all. I already have more ways to summon Siri than I need: iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, AirPods, and the one I use most frequently, the Apple TV Remote. When I sit down to watch something, I tell Siri to set my TV scene through the Apple TV Remote. I also control the temperature that way sometimes. 

    To me Siri has it where it counts, which is HomeKit integration. Turning on the lights by speaking to your watch is useful. Asking what sound a whale makes and getting and audio response is just a gimmick. All my friends who have Alexa always complain how crap Siri is because it can't play sounds of different animals. Who the hell cares? Even my 5-year old doesn't.

    So yeah, in terms of software, it is already pretty good. Certainly more than sufficient for my needs, that's why amazing sound quality is the most important thing to me.
    rattlhedlolliverrandominternetpersonwilliamlondon
  • Reply 73 of 151
    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    Soli said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    “It can’t make phone calls on its own.”

    Yup, neither can my microwave…
    How does that argument make sense. The HomePod is an internet connected device that has person-to-person communications protocols built in. It's not unreasonable to expect it to communicate with others with ease. As shown in the iJustine video she can send messages to people similar to how you send text messages via the Apple Watch.
    Justine also used the HomePod to speak to her sister via her mobile phone, which I expect. What I don’t expect is for Apple to build a phone into thing so it can “make phone calls on its own”. That is a pretty dumb idea. Almost as dumb as building a phone into a microwave. 
    You don't have to build a phone into it to make phone calls. No one else who offers the feature did so AFAIK.
    I’m not sure what you’re talking about then. Justine demonstrated sending a text message and making a phone call through the HomePod. I imagine it does what the other iGadgets by routing the call through your iPhone via the WiFi network. 
    No sir. On Google Home it does not make the call using your phone. The entire call takes place on Google Home (over wifi) even if I accidently left my phone in the truck or at work.  But due to an update to the feature it CAN now display your actual phone number to the person you're calling instead of "unknown caller", and if for whatever reason you'd prefer it did not you can change that in settings. 

    Soli (or someone else with an Echo) would have to tell you how the Echo handles it. 
    Similar with Amazon. I just tell Alexa to call a name in my phone's contact list or speak a number. Alexa pulls contacts from my phone, but calling is through "Amazon's servers" - not my phone. I can choose whether the called party's device shows my mobile number or "unknown caller".
  • Reply 74 of 151
    Soli said:
    One thing I'd like to see with their Shazam purpose is being able to say to Siri "What song is this?" and then proceed to poorly sing the song, speak the lyrics, or even hum a few notes to have it figure it out. I don't know where Shazam left off, but I know that other services had the ability to pick up songs not sung by the original artist.
    Oh, sweet Lord no...

    Instead of everyone sitting around:
    - staring at their screens
    - using speaker phone
    - playing music or videos with the speaker on

    now we'd have everyone singing, off-key, different songs into their iPhones...

    ...just like closing time at the piano bar
  • Reply 75 of 151
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,461member
    Soli said:
    gatorguy said:
    I wonder if the tech is here (or soon to come ) that would allow the sound of each vocal or instrument (or group of same) to be sent to a different speaker...

    ...So you could separately adjust the volume, etc. of the vocals, woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion...

    If that were possible -- it could revolutionize how we create and listen to audio and video.
    You're referring to something like what is described in this patent?
    https://www.google.com/patents/US20170236531

    Smart guys have been working on that for a few years. I think we're probably really close...
    http://ismir2012.ismir.net/event/papers/559_ISMIR_2012.pdf
    https://books.google.com/books/about/Musical_Instrument_Sound_Separation.html?id=_owJAQAAMAAJ

    I agree with you that when it happens, and it will, it's gonna be a game changer for high-end music. Of course it always filters down to really affordable sound systems/speakers within a relatively short time.
    Yes!

    I suspect that Apple is also working on something like this.  I wonder if Apple's approach is the reason they acquired they Shazam, and possibly FoundationDB.
    One thing I'd like to see with their Shazam purpose is being able to say to Siri "What song is this?" and then proceed to poorly sing the song, speak the lyrics, or even hum a few notes to have it figure it out. I don't know where Shazam left off, but I know that other services had the ability to pick up songs not sung by the original artist.
    The Shazam purchase offer may not be approved with regulators, so it's not a done deal and Apple has not yet bought them. That's still in flux. 
  • Reply 76 of 151
    Been waiting until some reviews came in before I made my decision.  Just bought one.  It sounds like this is exactly what I've been wanting.  I have an Echo, it's a great smart speaker, controls lights in my house and is fun to use, but audio quality is just crap.  I also have a soundbar under my TV in my living room.  It's good for movies, much better audio than what my TV can put out, but for music it's poor at best.  No bass, way too overpowering mid-range.  I don't have room in my living room for a full size audio setup and need something that can just sit on a bookshelf.  The HomePod sounds like exactly what I need, a compact speaker that delivers great sound.  I'm a subscriber to Apple Music (love it) so I'm really looking forward to the integration.  I don't care about Spotify or Pandora, I don't use either service.  And with my Echo on hand, I personally don't care if the HomePod isn't up to par, I'll just keep using the Echo.  I just want the ability to play music in my house and have it sound good without wearing headphones!  Looking forward to Friday, and if I don't like it, 14 days to return.
    zroger73lolliverwilliamlondon
  • Reply 77 of 151
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,261member
    Yes, SIRI isn't great and Alexa is better. However, I have Alexa devices in my house as well and I still don't use her in the same way I don't use SIRI.
    Apart from setting an alarm when I'm cooking I don't use any personal assistants for anything. I always have my iPad or iPhone with me so if I need to control anything or find anything out, I'll just use those.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 78 of 151
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,700member
    Well is sounds like the Audio Sound is great. Siri could be better, which is about as expected, and that Homekit works great. I think Home Control is really where these speakers make sense and always get used. As a growing Homekit house myself, I still think smart speakers in general are kind of older tech. You're locked into a room by a power cord. Where as I can pretty much do everything on my Apple Watch anywhere in my house and outside in my front and back yard and away from home.

    I have a Google Mini and a Amazon Dot also to just play around with. They all have their Pros and Cons. Question wise, I'd give the edge to Google. Home Control, I'd give to Siri, followed by Google. To me Alexa comes in 3rd, though they have a ton of Skills, most you'll NEVER use, audio even use them, you have to activate them. Then know how to say exactly the right to to make it work otherwise it's clueless.

    My Google Mini sounds pretty good for it's size. I can play music on it and it's not bad. Not at high volume. I play around Mid Range. For background type music. The Amazon Dot, I'd rather play music being a Prime Member, but the sound quality from that DOT SUCKS!!!

    Asking questions, and using my new 12.9" iPad Pro for Siri in my bedroom, I'm asking all 3 of them, Siri, Alexa, and Google the same questions, and they are all pretty close. I even have Cortana in the other room on my Windows 10 computer. I rarely use it and it's not great. It always does things I don't want and ends up just asking to use keyboard and mouse.

    Home Control using Siri and a Apple Watch is really where it's at!!! When I can walk back from down the block at the 7/11 and just lift my wrist and say "Hey Siri, Open garage" and BAM the garage door starts going up. That's almost magical. Same with turning on/off lights and adjusting the temp where I want it, etc. Just setting timers and asking the same dumb questions over and over again gets boring. Home control is really where it's at. It's really one of those things where you don't know what you're missing until you no longer have it.
    edited February 6 randominternetperson
  • Reply 79 of 151
    dsddsd Posts: 172member
    For a true test of skill, ask Siri, Alexa, and Google, 

    "Why does the porridge-bird lay his egg in the air?"

    edited February 6 tmay
  • Reply 80 of 151
    I'm glad this review addresses the state of Siri, which is seriously lagging behind in many respects. As stated in this thread, Siri is truly a joke.
    Not paying $349 for this speaker but it looks cool and I'm super curious how it will sound, especially two of 'em. 
    edited February 6
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