On a whim this past week, I decided to use a bit of tax refund to buy an Apple HomePod. Since I'm a planner I usually take time to consider purchases a while, so it's a bit unusual for me to pull the trigger so fast on a purchase.
I also usually hang on to electronics until I have gotten good use from them. I currently had an 18 year old stereo with 5 speakers in my living room. Note that the system was NOT an audiophile system -- just a system I picked up at Circuit City all those year ago to play CDs and cassette tapes (!!!) and listen to the radio.
The only thing I currently use the stereo for is to stream music from an old iPhone. I have the headphone jack on the phone connected to the stereo, and I just play music -- sometimes from my library, sometimes from Pandora...but mostly from Apple Music.
So I wondered if the HomePod could take the place of that system with all the speakers and wires.
***And the answer is -- not quite yet.***
But my first impression: the music sounds great from such a small device!
Placement and Testing
I tried it in 3 different positions, settling on my mantle. You can see that it is not a large item, but it is much heavier than you would think from its size. That's my first partner, Matt, with the puppies in that photo :)
In preparation for the delivery, I had prepared a 'HomePod Test' playlist. I included various types of music, from Nina Simone's I Put a Spell on You
to the theme from the horror movie Halloween
, to some classical tracks to Pop, with some older, some newer, some English, some Portuguese, some with more bass, some with less.
When I received the package yesterday, I set it up and spent a fair amount of time listening to songs in the playlist. And it was this song below that made me realize my older speaker system has the slight edge.
I think it was just the percussion sounds and the 'atmospheric-ness' of the music that gave the edge to the speaker system.But in testament to the HomePod
.... I had to listen to several songs before I could decide. Although my old system was not high end, it did have 5 'surround sound' type speakers, which is what gave it the edge I think.
Adjusted for inflation, I spent more on the 18 year old system than I did on the HomePod. And basically the HomePod is just a great little speaker!
Instructions for set up were easy --
I did run into 1 issue -- I had the phone in my hand as I was starting setup, and maybe I moved it too far away after the initial Configure screen had shown up. And the screen disappeared! And I didn't know how to get it back!
So I restarted both the HomePod and my iPhone, and the configure screen came back. And all went well.
I also tested playing from various AirPlay sources (this one is from my Mac). Worked great with no issues at all.
One thing that surprised me about Airplay was that I can play both on the source and on the HomePod. Here is me playing from my Mac speakers upstairs and from the HomePod downstairs -- same song playing on both at the same time.
Packaging was impeccable. I had brought a butter knife in from the kitchen into the living room to use to cut tape, but I didn't need it!
On the cardboard outside package, there was a tab to pull to remove the tape.
Once you were inside, the white package came out easily, and then the plastic around the white box peeled off in 1 piece with no effort at all.
Physical Control / Siri
There's an area on the top that lights up and where you can tap once to start/stop, twice to skip forward, etc. And there are 2 spots on top where you can change the volume.Siri has performed pretty much flawlessly!
She's limited though: for example she can't add an entry to my calendar, and she knows it. She responds that she can't do that.
When addressing her, I can use my normal, inside voice -- even full of oatmeal as I gobbled down breakfast this morning. And she can hear me from another room, although I did have to raise my voice when I was in the kitchen.An unusual turn for me is that HomePod is only English now.
And that's ok. On my iPhone and Mac, Siri understands my Portuguese just fine...EXCEPT I can't say English names in a way that he can understand. Even if I say a song title or an address with a 'Brazilian' accent, he doesn't get English names. But if the song title is in Portuguese, he understands me just fine. So from the point of view of voice control for mostly English titles, having English only is good.
I had forgotten how comfortable it is to speak in English to a device -- in Portuguese, I prepare in my head what I'm going to say before I say it -- in the way you have to do when you are just learning a language. One enjoyable (because I like to play around) aspect of this is that I can get Siri going on both my HomePod ("Hey Siri") and my iPhone ("E aí Siri
") and give instructions to both. As in "Hey Siri. Skip" and "E aí Siri. Abrir Notas.
Another limitation for me -- because my phone is in Portuguese and the HomePod in English, she can't send a text. She told me that I would need to change my phone to be the same language as HomePod before she could do that.
On the phone, the Home app is where you'll find HomePod settings. Here is Minha Casa
And some of the typical settings, more or less the same ones as on any device with Siri --
Only English available, but with the US, Great Britain and Australian varieties.
This second item below is important to note, and was part of the initial set up also. Basically, I chose that anyone in the house can control the HomePod, and anyone on the network can have access to my phone messages, mails, etc. But since I use my other devices in Portuguese, I think that is a moot point for me :)
All in All
All in all -- I'm satisfied. Although I think my old speaker system has the edge, I have still placed HomePod in my living room and have been using it exclusively with no issues.