I should mention that I bought the original HomePod when it first came out. It was ideal for the space between my kitchen and living room. When I first got it, I was completely blown away by just how perfect it was for the space. The bass is incredible for a device with such a small footprint. I think you would be hard pressed to find any speaker this size that sounds as good.
So what disaster? Well the middle of last year my HomePod developed a ticking noise. I guess something broke inside. I called Apple twice and the last supervisor I talked to told me they were moving my issue up to Engineering and I never heard back. I was planning to call them again, but I felt like it was a dead end.
Enter the Homepod Mini
Well, I figured I would save some money and get a HomePod mini to fill that space. After all, it was supposed to sound decent, was a lot cheaper, and did some of the same AirPlay2 magic as the original ( mainly controlling AirPlay 2 on my main system).
I have to say, my first impression of the mini wasn’t good. The sound felt like the bass had been sucked out. It wasn’t close to the original. You heard of diminishing returns? It is no where in sight. The original is at least three times better sounding. It isn’t close.
I hear people saying there is no market for a speaker at this price even if it sounds better. Well, that is true only because Apple crippled it. It requires an iPhone to set it up. It needs Apple Music if you want to control music by voice. That means millions of Android users and millions of Spotify users needed to look elsewhere. Not to mention the audience that actually care about sound quality using Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer.
Where was lossless Apple Music? Yeah, it is here now, after their great sounding speaker has been discontinued and for some unknown reason it doesn’t support Apple Music lossless out of the box …though, you can AirPlay lossless to it from a different app, like Qobuz. Apple is supposed to fix the lossless issue at some point.
Bluetooth where are you?
Oh, and let’s not forget that it needs Bluetooth to set it up, but for some reason it can’t accept Bluetooth audio. It also doesn’t have any inputs or outputs. By comparison, a cheap Echo Dot takes Bluetooth, will send out a Bluetooth signal, supports more services (now including Apple Music) and has Aux out!!!
The fact is that the Homepod is a niche device by design. I am surprised they ever thought it would sell all that well given the above limitations alongside what may be the worst performing assistant on the market.
Homepod makes a return
Personally, I never got used to the anemic sound of the HomePod mini in the space. The joy I felt listening to music in the area went away and I would just carry my phone into the space and use its speaker for podcasts. We no longer sat around the kitchen table after dinner talking and being surrounded by beautiful sounding music even at lower volumes. It was a change I didn’t like.
As a result, I bought one of the white Homepods before they went away. I got the Apple warranty just in case, so I hope they keep a few around for backup. I moved the mini to the bedroom and it actually sounds a lot better when it doesn’t have to fill a huge space. Next to the bed it gets a lot more use than it ever did in my kitchen area.
Below is a pic that shows the two rooms. As you can see, the HomePod is now mounted high next to the door. It feeds three rooms this way. Even with my main system in the living room, the convenience of the HomePod is unmatched.
I really hope this Homepod lasts at least a couple years. I have seen some new speakers from Sony that are at least on the right track. Maybe when my Homepod is on its last leg, someone will have something even better. I guess we will see, but I expect it will be hard to match the sound quality with a speaker this size that also has 360 degree sound which so perfectly fits my space, but I can still hope. Maybe with lossless audio also coming to Spotify, we will see more decent sounding speakers in this space.
But it’s a niche
I did a video (see below) when the original HomePod came out and pretty much acknowledged it was a niche product, but one that was so singular and perfect for the right person that it was still a great Apple product. I think if Apple could have opened it up more or improved Siri, it may have been more competitive. Heck, if it just activated the Bluetooth already built into it, my girlfriend could have used it with her Samsung phone. As it was, when we wanted to stream something off her phone, she was forced to use my inferior sounding Echo Dots. No way she would ever do that if the HomePod wasn’t so limited.
Sometimes products come along that perfectly serve a specific part of the market, but don’t have mass sales because of price or features. When I was in college I had an engineering calculator from HP. It perfectly served my purposes, but anyone that didn’t have a background in mathematics or engineering wouldn’t even begin to know how to use it. It was still a great device, even with its limited appeal. This is how I feel about the outstanding sounding Homepod with its meager footprint. It is a technological wonder to the right person and a source of complete confusion to others. I guess a company the size of Apple can’t justify making an engineering calculator or a Homepod. However, it is still sad to see a company that was once based on being the rebel and being so devoted to quality that they would “paint the back side of a fence” as well as the front, suddenly digress to a cheaper inferior product for the masses… just shows how far they have gone from their initial culture. They will never be able to call the HomePod Mini “our best HomePod” ever… kind of sad.