When Apple launched the HomePod, its smart speaker, to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home, it was quite clear that Apple was focusing on sound quality rather than Siri, as a digital assistant.
People have unanimously raved about the sound quality in HomePod reviews . But as John Gruber of Daring Fireball points out Apple seems to have miscalculated the importance of sound quality over the digital assistant. Stephen Hackett, in his article titled A HomePod Intervention at 512 Pixels writes:
All in all, I thought the move to the HomePod was going well right until my family staged an intervention. Their annoyance with Siri misunderstanding or misinterpreting has grown over the last few weeks, and the clumsiness with which Siri handles — or doesn’t handle — some requests has become bothersome. I’ve overheard several interactions with the HomePod that entail a family member asking for a song or album that ends in getting upset with the device when it starts playing something else. The Echo — coupled with Amazon Music — had a much higher hit rate when it came to accurately playing what was desired. In short, the increase in sound quality doesn’t make up for the frustration of using Siri. The HomePod is going to live in my studio; the Echo is back in its rightful place in the kitchen.
I thought that focusing on sound quality was a good strategy as I haven’t been convinced about smart speakers. I have felt that talking to the speaker would be a novelty initially as one would end up using it more as a speaker and less as a digital assistant, the sound quality of the speakers would be more important.
But after reading such articles and hearing that HomePod sales are struggling, it looks like I was wrong. Apple may have miscalculated the importance of the digital assistant. Crippling Siri even further by not opening it to developers like Amazon has with Alexa also wasn’t a good move.
It will be interesting to see if Apple pivots, and focuses more on improving and adding new capabilities to Siri on the HomePod. Apple will probably need to focus on the “smart” part of the HomePod if it plans to launch a cheaper version of HomePod , which won’t offer the same sound quality as the $350 HomePod.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.