Tuesday, March 16, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Goodbye, Original HomePod

Matthew Panzarino (tweet, MacRumors, tweet, Slashdot, Hacker News):

Apple has discontinued its original HomePod after four years. It says that it will continue to produce and focus on the HomePod mini, introduced last year. The larger HomePod offered a beefier sound space but the mini has been very well received and clearly accomplishes many of the duties that the larger version was tasked with. The sound is super solid (especially for the size) and it offers access to Siri, Apple’s assistant feature.

John Gruber (tweet):

I love my HomePods, but clearly the market deemed them too expensive.

Joe Rosensteel:

I know there are some people that really like the HomePod so I don’t want to harp on how it was an overpriced, over-engineered, fiddly, gimmicky, rudderless, Siri-hampered, mono speaker, and hurt the feelings of dozens of people. R.I.P. 🙏

Jason Snell:

Don’t forget its lack of an aux-in jack. My iPod Hi-Fi is going to outlast it.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

I wish I had good things to say on the eve of the HomePod’s death, but it was just never a great product. I was never happy with the audio quality of a standalone unit, and Siri+HomeKit is incredibly inconsistent, and nowhere near as fun as a voice assistant as Google’s/Amazon’s

[…]

I expect the original HomePod to be dropped like a stone from future OS updates — it’s saddled with a CPU no longer supported by mainline iOS (they moved it to a tvOS core recently, just to stay afloat), and the HomePod mini is built on Apple Watch chips

Paul Haddad:

For < $100 Google gives you an entire screen, which is pretty cool at doing things like showing the weather and providing more info on searches. Does a passable job at showing doorbell camera video too.

Don’t even get me started comparing Siri vs Google Assistant.

Federico Viticci:

Also, HomePod mini discontinued ~2023? I’m afraid Apple is simply too late to the market here – cheaper, more diverse options from the competition, available everywhere, in multiple languages, with smarter assistants.

Myke Hurley:

I try to use a HomePod pair with my Apple TV. When it works, it sounds fantastic. However most days it doesn’t. I get all kinds of failures — with content pausing, or one of the HomePods failing.

Kirk McElhearn:

I think Apple fell into the trap of people who care about audio, thinking that everyone feels like they do. The vast majority of people are fine listening to music on cheap Bluetooth speakers, or ever from their phones, and paying that much for what might be better audio just doesn’t make sense.

Jack Wellborn:

You may still think four HomePods is a bit ridiculous, but trust me when I say that they really work well for our needs in this space. We can watch TV, or play music in one or both areas and it all sounds good. You might think “sounds good” would be table stakes, but so much consumer audio, especially wireless speakers, simply don’t sound good. Even my wife, who doesn’t typically care about this sort of thing, asked if we should by another pair when I told her that HomePods were being discontinued.

Am I a little sad that the original HomePod is going away? Sure, but do I have regrets owning four discontinued wireless speakers? Not at all.

Benjamin Mayo:

Honestly, the decision to cancel it feels like a misstep. The HomePod was overpriced but it was differentiated. The HomePod mini doesn’t really excel at anything. The mediocrity of the Mini’s sound quality means it leans much more heavily on the ‘smart’ component of being a smart speaker, and we know that Siri lags behind Alexa and Google Assistant in many ways. By focusing on the HomePod mini, Apple is implicitly focusing on Siri.

See also: TidBITS.

Previously:

Update (2021-03-19): Andrew Abernathy:

My living & dining areas are “separated” by these little ledges, and due to the all-around design, a stereo pair of HomePods sends good audio to both sides. (It doesn’t appear to me that the newer minis would do as well.) For me, these have been perfect.

Michael Kukielka (via Ryan Jones):

The 2nd HomePod I bought after their cancellation is also from the launch stock.

7 Comments

Shortly after the HomePod was released, I went with a couple of friends to an Apple store and checked it out. We were all Mac-heads, but hadn't followed the HomePod too closely. None of us was able to figure out how to interact with the demo units, and we had too much pride ("It just works," right?) and too little interest to track down a free store employee to ask, so we moved on. That was my only experience with this dud.

You may still think four HomePods is a bit ridiculous, but trust me when I say that they really work well for our needs in this space.

There was a point where I almost got one, and then I got reminded of, as Jason said, the lack of wired input.

If this is the future Apple is envisioning, they have their work cut out for them. AirPlay just isn’t reliable enough, and fundamentally, the idea that you set up an Apple TV (physically near your TV) with one or two HomePods (physically near your TV) and then connect to those wirelessly (what?) is just stupid. You’ll never match the reliability and latency of a wired connection.

It’s fine to casually play songs that way, but it just makes zero sense for a 90-minute movie. You don’t want the audio switching to a different input (because the Apple TV can no longer find the HomePod, for god knows what reason) in the middle of it. Or it suddenly mutig (where sometimes, rewinding 15 seconds fixes it, and sometimes it doesn’t). Ever.

(I personally don’t particularly care for the assistant aspects.)

I don’t even mind HomePod being relatively pricy, or Siri not being the best assistant.

Just do a HomePod+Apple TV mashup in a sound bar form factor. Makes the Apple TV more useful again, and solves the completely unnecessary problem of wireless audio transmission.

I like my HomePods, so I’m a bit confused here. Will there never be another good sounding Siri speaker? If one dies it would be a huge step down in quality to go to the Mini, so I guess I’ll have to go back to Alexa in the future.

Strong agree about the silliness of unnecessary wireless connections involved in combining AppleTV and HomePods. To be honest, I feel the same way about wireless keyboards and mice and desktop computers, though somehow those seem to be less flaky than AirPlay.

I got one of these original HomePods.

Why?

Definitely not for the sound quality (which I think is just _okay_), and not for the Siri assistant stuff either.

No, I bought mine because when I saw it, it reminded me of a G4 Cube kind of a product and I expect it will similarly be a prized collectable one day. It was also on sale.

That it happens to be convenient for talking on the phone or playing occasional music was always just a nice addition.

As for the compatibility itself, I'm personally not too worried. People are still using AppleTV 3's from 2012 to stream AirPlay content. I'm sure there's a ton of life left in these pods.

I like my HomePods, so I’m a bit confused here. Will there never be another good sounding Siri speaker?

I suspect the plan isn’t the keep only the HomePod mini, because that would be weird.

But I’m also guessing whatever HomePod comes next (maybe in two years?) will be less high-end than the original one. A $179 HomePod Pro, if you will.

Or maybe they’ll just revise the HomePod mini and rebrand it as HomePod 2. It’d be a bit of a bummer, but also, I don’t want Apple to get lost in every single rabbit hole.

Jose Marques

Totally agree with Jason Snell. I bought two iPod Hi-Fi back in 2007 when Apple discontinued them. I'm using one as the speaker for my low-end TV (plugged into the optical port). The other one sits almost pristine in its custom Waterfield bag. The sound is more than adequate for its size. The HomePod is one final OS update, and one server-side API change, away from being obsolete.

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