Google Home and Amazon Alexa beat Apple HomePod to the living room

According to survey results from Business Insider Intelligence, Apple’s HomePod was hotly anticipated but not hot off the starting line.

We ourselves dumbfounded once again with Apple’s late response to a consumer electronics boom. The difference between iPad and the Apple Newton was evident, and though Apple may be late to the party, this time we think it may be onto something.

“The HomePod got off to a rocky start after demonstrating strong early potential at its June 2017 unveiling,” stated Business Insider’s Peter Newman of the year-old Siri-enabled smart home speaker. “An early Business Insider Intelligence survey showed high consumer awareness of the product, as well as an excited audience.”

Multi-Room audio Apple HomePod white

The world’s most valuable company has joined the party on what we agree with other tech analysts may well be a wireless home audio revolution. We also think, however, that Apple will have to shape up to more realistic consumer demand if people are more willing to adopt HomePod over less expensive solutions.

Amazon and Google had their solutions out in time for last Christmas, but even after Apple’s fancy waste bin-sized meshed nest egg called HomePod was out of the bag, the tech giant’s device was not available in Canada.

For months it was a #fail for Apple north of the 49th parallel, but now that HomePod has hit stores in Canada, we are thrilled to be able to test it, and give Apple the benefit of the doubt, but not without acknowledging a couple road bumps along the way.

Siri worked well, but not quite as well as we thought it might. We had many people around with various levels of audible volume to their voices, and Siri picked up just my voice very well, but not once playing music. The usual Siri inquiries were answered effectively, and from a distance HomePod also did well on recognizing voice commands even when distanced far enough away that the user’s voice begins to blend in with their background.

According to Apple, here are a few other things you can do with HomePod, thanks to a recent software update:

  • Search by lyrics: In addition to asking Siri to play a particular song, artist or genre, now it’s easy to ask Siri to “play the song that goes like this…” or ask Siri to “play the song that goes ‘I’m a rebel just for kicks now.’”1
  • Set multiple timers: HomePod now supports multiple named timers. Set a timer for the cake, another one for lasagna and another one as a reminder to dim the lights — using just your voice.
  • Make and receive phone calls: Conveniently use HomePod to make and receive phone calls for crisp and clear audio quality. To make a call, simply ask Siri to call someone from Contacts or say the number to call. Incoming calls are automatically directed from iPhone to HomePod — just ask Siri to answer the phone — and for missed calls, it’s as easy as asking, “Hey Siri, who just called?” Using the audio picker on iPhone, calls can be moved from HomePod to iPhone at any time.
  • Find My iPhone: The popular Apple Watch feature comes to HomePod, so users can ping any of their nearby devices to find them.
  • Siri Shortcuts: Shortcuts opens up a world of apps to work on HomePod. As Siri learns routines and suggests ‘shortcuts’ on iPhone and iPad, these same shortcuts are now accessible on HomePod. Personalizing shortcuts for HomePod with a series of tasks is easy with a new Shortcuts app. For example, “Hey Siri, good morning” could run a morning routine and order coffee from a coffee shop’s app, turn on the kitchen lights from the Home app and share the first few calendar appointments for the day — all with one simple, customizable command.

“HomePod delivers an even more immersive listening experience when two HomePod speakers become stereo pairs, delivering high-fidelity sound with a wide soundstage,” states Apple. “Using spatial awareness to sense their location in the room, each HomePod automatically adjusts the audio to sound great wherever it is placed and sound great together.”

Apple HomePod Siri

Siri built into Apple’s HomePod smart speaker device appears whenever called upon with the usual activation command, “Hey, Siri.”

The wireless fidelity is also changing to allow more practical features for consumers. Apple states, “with AirPlay 2, it’s easy to create a wireless multi-room audio system to play music in any room from any room, move music from one room to another or play the same song everywhere using HomePod, an iOS device, Apple TV or by asking Siri.”

We didn’t get the opportunity to test the pairing capability between two HomePods, but this is a pretty awesome concept given the amount of rich sound emanating from just one HomePod. However, At over $1,000 for two after tax, we’re not sure this will be viable for most people, unless you’re a geek with a deep pocket.