HomePod Reviews: Outstanding Sound Quality, but Siri 'Struggles at Smart'

Three days ahead of the HomePod's launch in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, Apple has now allowed the first full reviews of the device to be shared online. While opinions regarding specific features of the smart speaker fluctuate among reviewers, it appears that one constant remains: HomePod provides great, high-quality sound that beats most devices in the price range, at the cost of an underperforming AI assistant and the user getting further tangled into Apple's walled garden.

jbareham 180202 2266 0295

Image via The Verge

Nilay Patel with The Verge emphasized this feeling of being trapped in Apple's ecosystem by stating that he thought the HomePod as one of the "loneliest" of Apple's devices. He liked the audio and build quality of the speaker, which he said provided an impressive amount of bass that never overwhelms, and ultimately sounded "richer and fuller than almost every other speaker we’ve tested."

Still, his recommendation for HomePod was specific: it's only for those who live in Apple's walled garden and "prioritize sound quality over everything else."

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.

Joanna Stern with The Wall Street Journal noted that during her week of testing the HomePod, Apple's device "nails the speaker but struggles at smart." Stern noted that while Siri is a "good butler" for various HomeKit tasks, all of the usual issues remain when asking Siri other normal questions.

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.

Matthew Panzarino with TechCrunch noted that HomePod's ability to recognize commands at a distance, even while music is playing, is one of the device's strong suits, but also explained that most of these commands are still limited by Siri. Panzarino provided a few further details of other parts of HomePod, favoring the attention that Apple paid to the flexible, braided power cord and "seamless" ability to move HomePod from room to room and have it automatically connect to "any network known by your phone" within a few seconds.

img 9266

Image via TechCrunch

Panzarino also went further into details about the sound quality of HomePod, describing it as "precise."

The sound that comes from the HomePod can best be described as precise. It’s not as loud as some others like Google Home Max or as bright (and versatile) as the Sonos Play 1, but it destroys the muddy sound of less sophisticated options like the Amazon Echo. To genuinely fill a large room you need two but anyone in a small house or apartment will get great sound from one.

The HomePod was the “best” sounding. It’s nuanced and subtle with great separation and clarity across all kinds of music. The Play 1, for instance, had decent mid range but an overly bright high end with just the out of the box calibration. At maximum volume, the Play 1 became shrill and painful where the HomePod maintained balance.

There are plenty of other reviews and opinions on HomePod coming out today, so below we'll list a few other reviewers and a quick snapshot from their respective articles.

Megan Wollerton with CNET:

With the HomePod in the center of the room, for example, I heard distinct wedges of good (and less good) sound around the speaker. Sometimes the front sounded great and the back not so much. Sometimes the best sound came from 90 degrees on either side.

Apple says the speaker adjusts itself based on room position, and as I moved the speaker around I could hear the difference as it recalibrated. Overall I found that the HomePod sounded best placed against a wall or in a corner, which is fine since that's where most people will probably place it anyway.

Jim Dalrymple with The Loop:

To be absolutely clear, there was no comparison in sound quality. HomePod offered so much more quality that it was quite literally laughable to hear the others. The only speaker that sounded decent was the Sonos One, but even it couldn’t compete with HomePod.

It’s hard to explain the sound of HomePod, but you get a feeling that the sound is enveloping you, even when using just one speaker. There is a sense that this is how the songwriter and producer wanted the song to be heard when they recorded it.

Brian X. Chen with The New York Times:

The result is a speaker with a deep bass and rich treble that is loud enough to fill a large room with superb sound. HomePod makes the Amazon Echo and Google’s Home sound muffled and tinny in comparison.

But Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it. Siri is sorely lacking in capabilities compared with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Siri doesn’t even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone.

Other reviews: USA Today, iMore, Telegraph, Pocket Lint, The Independent, and iJustine.

Related Roundup: HomePod

Top Rated Comments

Smartass Avatar
52 months ago
Apple's ignorance on Siri's development in recent years is really starting to show up. Siri has become the Village idiot among smart assistants.
Score: 75 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rams Avatar
52 months ago
.. and the problem with homepod is *drumroll* SIRI!

hey siri t.. DING
HEY SIRI - DING
HEY SIRI - nothing happens
hey siri, turn off the lights

(me every evening talking to my iphone, while my gf is laughing at me)

no thanks i stay with sonos for now :)
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
lsutigerfan1976 Avatar
52 months ago
This is where they’ve failed. I keep stressing this over and over. You cannot have a smart speaker assistant that’s not smart lol. There is a a percentage of people who will still buy the HomePod regardless. But the market isn’t in the speaker. The market is in the assistant!
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
52 months ago
Apple should use some of their billions in retained cash to buy up a few AI companies to bring Siri up to speed faster.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Heineken Avatar
52 months ago
There is nothing smart about any of them. All i need is weather sometimes, control my lights and play music which it does just fine.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deanthedev Avatar
52 months ago
That’s a lot of people for Apple to pay off.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole 16x9 120hz

Analyst: All iPhone 14 Models to Feature 120Hz Displays, 6GB of RAM, and More

Friday January 14, 2022 7:02 am PST by
Apple is rumored to announce four new iPhone 14 models in September, and ahead of time, analyst Jeff Pu has outlined his expectations for the devices. In a research note with Haitong International Securities, obtained by MacRumors, Pu claimed that all iPhone 14 models will feature ProMotion displays, compared to only Pro models currently. ProMotion enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz ...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
iPad Pro Big Ol Logo Orange

Next iPad Pro Might Feature Large Glass Apple Logo to Allow Wireless Charging

Friday January 14, 2022 10:44 am PST by
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu last year reported that Apple had tested a new iPad Pro with a glass back for wireless charging capabilities. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said he expects the new iPad Pro to be released in 2022. While the new iPad Pro is still on track to feature wireless charging, 9to5Mac's Filipe Espósito today reported that Apple may have ultimately...
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...