My love/hate relationship with Apple is (mostly) love these days
One of the phrases one hears often at Apple keynotes is about a product that “changed the world.” It was one of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs’ go-to lines, and it continues to be employed at keynotes by various Apple executives to great effect to this day.
Apple has had some incredible products over the years, but few of them lived up to change-the-world status.
The HomePod, its latest product, isn’t going to change the world, and not even an over-zealous Apple executive would try to tell you that.
I’m probably as happy now with my Apple equipment as I have ever been. My main personal computer is a 27-inch 4.2 GHz quad core i7 5k iMac, which has 32 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD. It’s an outstanding machine. It replaced a 2012 i7 iMac which I had eons of problems with. Most notably, Safari was unusable on that iMac.
My new one runs fast, quietly and efficiently. I couldn’t be more pleased.
I purchased the iPhone X when it first came out, and it was great for everything but talking on the phone. I hadn’t had call quality issues previously with other iPhones, nor do I have it with my work iPhone (an iPhone 6S Plus). But on my new iPhone X, no one, and I mean no one, could understand me clearly when I was at home. It got slightly better when I put the phone on speaker, but it never fixed it fully.
I’d taken it to the Apple Store and it would pass all the tests, and they’d tell me to go to AT&T. I’d go to the AT&T store and they’d say it was working correctly and recommend I go to Apple. Last week, after about the 10,000 call with poor quality, I called AppleCare and told the representative I was going to buy an Android phone if I couldn’t get the issue resolved. They finally sent me a replacement under warranty and wouldn’t you know, the problem has largely disappeared.
So I’m loving my iMac and my iPhone. I have the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro and that’s always been great, but it’s really great with iOS 11. I love that dearly. And my Series 2 Apple Watch gives me quick functionality to things I need to see quickly. If I get a text, I don’t have to yank the phone out of my pocket, I glance at my wrist and see it. And if I can’t find my phone, I can answer a call on it and hunt around for the phone itself!
Now, even as something of an Apple fanboy, I have to admit its software just isn’t as clean as it once was. There are bugs in it that never would have gotten through in days gone by. I’ll leave the why on that one to people who know more about the company and software development than I do, but the overall quality of Apple software has noticeably declined.
That brings me to the HomePod. It’s good as a music player, if you use Apple Music. It’s good as a virtual assistant if you only want it to provide you with the most basic information. Ask what the weather will be like tomorrow and Siri will dutifully give you the information, however brief. I just asked what the weather will be like in Las Vegas tomorrow, and Siri said, “Looks like it will be partly cloudy in Las Vegas tomorrow. The high will be 48 degrees and the low will be 30.” And that was it.
Ask it, “How does my day look?” and it rather embarrassingly tells you it cannot.
It can’t call me an Uber. Or turn my television on and off, or raise its volume, or switch its channel. It can turn a few lights on and off, but you can’t set recipes so that if you say, “Movie time,” the blinds will close, the lights will go down, and the TV will switch to Netflix (or the DVD player or HBO or whatever).
The thing is, this is a very un-Apple-like device right now. Undoubtedly, Apple is going to add functionality to it as time goes by, but the HomePod was already delayed and users have fallen in love with either the Amazon Echo or the Google Home. Apple is way behind in that race.
The HomePod sounds better than either the Echo or the Google Home, though that’s clearly subjective, but I have a surround sound system connected to my home theater with whole home audio. That means I can play the same songs in every room, or different songs in every room — or the sound from the TV in one room and the sound from the radio in another and Apple Music in a third. You get the idea.
So I don’t really have a need for the HomePod as a music player. I was hopeful for an innovative digital assistant that could make my life easier in ways I’d thought about — Adding a calendar entry — and ways I never imagined but couldn’t live without once I learned about them.
If you are into music quality and don’t have a great AV system in your home, the HomePod is a good choice. It’s particularly a good choice if you have an Apple Music account. If you want basic — very, very basic — digital help, the HomePod can do it, too.
If your needs or interests are greater than that, it’s going to a disappointing product.
It wasn’t that long ago that most of my Apple products disappointed me.
Now, I score my iMac a 10 out of 10.
My iPad Pro is a 9.5 out of 10. I don’t have a personal MacBook Pro at this time. As an aside, I sold my 13-inch 2016 MacBook Pro to Gazelle.com when I bought my iMac. If you haven’t used Gazelle.com, you’re seriously missing out.
My iPhone X and my Series 2 Apple Watch are 9 out of 10. Heck, my 4K Apple TV is great, and it’s 8.5 out of 10.
But the HomePod? Nah. Can’t endorse that one.
Three months from now or six months or a year from now, perhaps I’ll change my mind. But today, I could buy three Amazon Echos ($99.99 at Amazon.com) AND an Amazon Echo Dot (49.99 at Amazon.com) for the same price as the HomePod. (Note: My HomePod did the math and just told me those four Amazon devices would set me back $349.96, while it let me know I could buy the HomePod for an even $349). So yeah, for 96 cents more, I could get three additional devices that would do a heck of a lot more than a HomePod.
So my Apple love quotient at this stage is about an 8.75 out of 10. And that’s pretty good.
I’m not quite back to being an evangelist, but I am back to loving the products.