I wrote last time that one of the tests of truly useful technology is how quickly it stops feeling like a luxury and starts feeling like something you wouldn’t want to live without.
For me, streaming music started out as a luxury – something I used to supplement my own collection of music – and has turned into my primary music source. Not just because it gives me access to music that would otherwise have cost me a fortune, but also because For You playlists have introduced me to more new artists than I could count.
I’m finding that HomePod is moving rather rapidly into the same category: a gadget I wouldn’t want to be without.
A month on, I can report that HomePod has definitely completed that transition …
That’s partly for smart home control. Siri is the most convenient way to control HomeKit devices, and the HomePod is hands-down the most reliable and convenient way to invoke it.
The HomePod can hear you from further away than any other device, and it’s the only thing that can understand you while music is playing.
The real convincer on the Siri front, though, has been my partner. I used Siri all the time anyway; Steph almost never did before HomePod. Now she too uses it daily.
But, on its own, that’s not a great reason to own a HomePod. An Amazon Echo Dot or two can control smart home devices as well as a HomePod, and while a Dot can’t hear you while music is playing, it’s not that great a hassle to press a button on an iPhone or Apple Watch to invoke Siri.
The HomePod only justifies its cost if you’re going to use it as a speaker, and I’ve continued to do so long after the novelty wore off.
In my third diary piece, I talked about balancing sound quality against convenience.
Most of us aren’t willing to accept audio quality we perceive to be poor, but when the difference is ‘great’ versus ‘really good,’ then the convenience factor does come into play. And for me, HomePod audio quality ticks the ‘really good’ box in exactly the way the Sonos Play 5 did.
It’s not B&O. It’s not Naim. But the sound quality is really good. Good enough that I’ve been perfectly happy with it for casual and background listening.
And that, in truth, is most of my music listening these days. There are still times when I really want to immerse myself in music, and that’s when the difference between ‘really good’ and ‘great’ makes itself heard. But the rest of the time, the difference doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the music.
So the convenience comes more to the fore. And the ability to simply tell HomePod what to play – both directly and indirectly – is pretty addictive. Once you experience it, it’s hard to be without it. It actually feels like a bit of a chore with my other speakers to have to open an app and select my music that way.
I mentioned in an Apple Music Diary piece in 2015 that I actually spend most of my time listening to recommended playlists in the For You tab. With HomePod, I’m effectively doing an even more efficient version of this. I tend to use one of five ways of selecting music:
- ‘Play some music’ – a quick, no-brainer way to get music I mostly like
- ‘Play my favorites mix’ – which guarantees every track is a winner
- ‘Play my chill music mix’ – great for background music
- ‘Play some
’ – useful when I want to pick a style but get variety
- ‘Play some
’ – when I know who I want to listen to
The upshot of all this is that I definitely want a second HomePod for the bedroom, and have this high on the list for when we finally stop spending money on home improvements. And, once stereo pairing is available, I’ll be very tempted to add a second HomePod to form our main music system, with the B&O used only for active rather than background listening. That’s something I would never have imagined until I used it day in, day out.
Check out my colleagues’ takes below, and if you have a HomePod yourself, do share your experiences in the comments.