I’m counting down the days on this one.
My primary phone is an iPhone 7 Plus, although I use Android phones all week as part of my job. In my house, I use the Apple TV and quite a few HomeKit devices, so I’m already using Siri to turn my lights on and off and even to activate a sprinkler system. (In case you’re wondering, yes — my neighbors have looked at me funny when I command the garden to water itself.)
Product success can depend greatly on an established audience. When the Apple HomePod ships this December, I’ll buy one or two or six. I’ll probably even try to score one of the first ones at my local Apple store, as I did with an iPad long, long ago. I haven’t tested the speaker quality against the Google Home, which is outstanding as a music device. We don’t know exactly how Apple is going to make Siri work more like a true AI bot by the fall. We do have a few hints — translation and more proactive suggestions should be available in iOS 11.
Yet I already know how this will fit into my own digital lifestyle. For starters, I am firmly implanted in the iTunes ecosystem. One reason is that I’m lazy. I can’t imagine having to categorize my entire collection of indie music all over again, and the brains inside iTunes already have a massive understanding of my listening patterns. (Right now, my top three most-played tracks since the dawn of time are all by a band called The National.) I have every podcast loaded, and iTunes manages the ones I’ve already listened to and like the best. I have 14,952 songs, totaling 156GB in storage. Even more importantly, these songs are synced with two iPads, a Mac, and two iPhones. Everything just works.
I haven’t even mentioned how much I rely on Siri and know its quirks. I’m still learning what Cortana, Alexa, and the Google Assistant can do, but I know Siri’s limitations. I still use that bot more than any other, because my phone is always sitting next to me while I work. “Hey, Siri” is a phrase my kids have heard a thousand times; they’ve only heard me say “Alexa” a few dozen times. I use Apple CarPlay constantly. While the nav on an iPhone is not really that spectacular, it works — and it’s easier to control by voice.
So what does this all mean? My guess without testing the HomePod is that it will fit smoothly into my daily routine. Placed next to my desk, it will become the device that works best for asking about the weather, getting directions, playing music, and setting up a meeting. Like the AirPods, it’s not always about being the absolute best but instead about being the best for my own digital lifestyle.
What could cause some serious problems? That might deserve another post, but for now, it seems like HomePod is going to have two main deficits. One is related to ordering products. How could any company, including Walmart, compete with Alexa for that? Another is related to the smart home. While HomeKit is capable enough, it can’t match the prowess of Alexa at this point, since so many devices support the Echo and Dot speaker. Google can also make inroads over the next few months and will be even more firmly entrenched for some smart home users.
Here’s my prediction. In 2018, this will become an all-out war between four main competitors (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple). For me, it’s a big win all around.
Welcome to the party, Apple.