I want to hate the HomePod. Apple's new $ 350 speaker symbolizes all backward and compromising about the walled garden of the iPhone manufacturer: the speaker requires you to have an iOS device to use it, and requires an Apple Music account to make use of voice control playback with Siri power. It's antithetical to Sonos platform-independent and shamelessly, as if Apple were challenging its competitors to try to compete with its hardware feat and platform lock.
And yet, I find myself reflecting on buying one for myself. I have been using a HomePod review unit, borrowed by Apple, during the last week and I find it frustrating and fantastic at the same time in almost the same extent. It sounds great, better than any Bluetooth speaker that has tested in recent memory and on par with some stereo systems of fair price and much more cumbersome. I also discovered that having the HomePod as a solo audio option, at least for a medium-sized San Francisco apartment, is more than enough for almost any listening situation.
There's only one problem: I'm a devoted Spotify user. I paid the premium subscription for the Swedish broadcast service for almost six years and I consider myself a satisfied customer. That means that my use of HomePod has been restricted to AirPlay, which is a huge commitment. I can not use Siri to play music, and the HomePod is interrupted every time another audio source, such as a video on Twitter or Instagram, overrides my phone's settings. In a world increasingly plagued by automatic playback videos on social networks and news sites, this is a big problem. I have resorted to using HomePod with my iPad as a stand-alone music device, and it is a silly solution that I think a $ 350 speaker should not need.
And yet, that is the promise and danger of HomePod, a device that works better with other Apple hardware and software products, as is the case with most of the company's companies. However, as my colleague Vlad Savov wrote last month, HomePod is "the point of no return for Apple fans," because it not only requires you to have an iOS device, but goes a step further by limiting some of its functions more useful to a piece of software made by Apple. Buying and trusting the HomePod becomes an act of acquiescence for the more radical ends of Apple's walled garden philosophy. You can put Google Maps on your iPhone and replace Safari with Chrome on Mac, but HomePod simply will not work as advertised without an Apple Music subscription or iTunes playback.
My options are to use a speaker other than HomePod (like Sonos), configure AirPlay or switch to Apple Music. Now, I've tried tons of competing music streaming services, from Google Play Music to Tidal and Apple, which were perhaps the closest to convince me to change. But Spotify has always reigned in my mind because of its more optimized user interface and its recommendation engine, particularly the Discover Weekly playlist feature.
But beyond those elements, what keeps me using Spotify is the hassle of switching to something else. I can not exhaustively transfer my playlists and relearn a completely new piece of software that I use daily for hours, as well as having to spend weeks or months training this new piece of software in my listening habits and tastes. I know there is paid software that can do most of the heavy lifting in this regard, but I have become accustomed to Spotify and I am generally happy with the product.
Apple is building an increasingly strong case for its walled garden, one product at a time
There lies the central problem with HomePod. Although I have already decided that a good home speaker is not enough to change me from Spotify to Apple Music, the fact that I am even considering it or that I am willing to live with the limited functionality of AirPlay is proof in my mind that Apple He is building an increasingly strong case for his walled garden, one product at a time.
The Apple Watch is now the industry's leading portable device, and AirPods has established a major barrier in the wireless headset market for its convenience and quality. Similarly, HomePod also helps Apple to plant a banner in an existing market crammed with long-standing players. It tells those who are outside the walled garden, who may be reaching their peak, what they are losing. Maybe a single product is not enough to change from Android to iOS, from Windows to Mac, or from Spotify to Apple Music, but a litany of appeals over time creates a more compelling case.
Apple has a penchant for using its unique combination of strong product design and aesthetics, along with the additional benefits of platform locking, so your options feel attractive and desirable. Even when you know you are being tempted to spend more money because Apple refuses to play well with others, it can feel like a tug of war, with the fact of surrendering yourself lightly sweetened by the knowledge that buying in the Apple ecosystem means already You do not care how to make disparate products and services fit in your life.
I'm not there yet. I still love Spotify, and I do not think the use case of listening to music in my living room justifies tormenting me for a $ 350 speaker purchase and my personal software options. But I am happy these days to have an iPhone and use a Mac, if only to avoid similar problems that arise in other platforms and device types. For now, Apple has me within my reach, and it seems that the company is waiting for me to surrender.