Living with the HomePod- Settling In

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This is day four with my HomePod, and I think I have a pretty good feel for it at this point. We all know the basics- the sound is great, Siri is no so great. However, this is the point where users start coming across more of the details of a device, and the HomePod is no exception. Here are some more observations from the last couple of days of use.

“Hey Siri” gets REALLY OLD

Honestly, this is one of my biggest complaints with the HomePod right now. I didn’t expect Siri to perform a miracle and suddenly catch up to the intelligent assistant field at launch, and I have found the accuracy when requesting music to be much better than I experienced on day one. However, being tethered to saying “Hey Siri” every time you want to ask for something gets irritating, especially when making several requests in a short period of time. Invariably, you will end up dropping your guard and just talking…with no response. This is because saying “Hey” every time isn’t conversational. It’s contrived.

I understand the reasoning behind this at launch, but like Amazon, Apple needs to loosen up going forward. Even if they, like Google, want you to stick with the brand name as a wake word, at least let us drop the “Hey,” so that requests will feel more natural. This shouldn’t be that hard and I’m sure I won’t be the only one asking for it, so I will be disappointed in Apple if this doesn’t get demoed for later release at WWDC.

“Hey Siri” requests for HomePod play well with other Apple devices….at least for me

One thing Apple has done well, in my opinion, is getting Siri to recognize which device should take precedence with a “Hey Siri” prompt. I did a lot of writing Saturday, and most of it was done sitting on my bed. I was writing using my iPad Pro, had my iPhone next to me, my Watch on my wrist, and my HomePod next to me on the nightstand. That’s a lot of potential for “Hey Siri” mistakes within one to three feet of each other. Surprisingly, there weren’t any.

I was peppering the HomePod with queries all day Saturday, and the only time another device hijacked my “Hey Siri” request was my iPhone IF I had it in my hand and the screen turned on. I can understand why it would normally take precedence in that case, so I didn’t see that as a failure. As for my Watch, iPad Pro, and my iPhone the rest of the time, one or more would trigger momentarily when I would say “Hey Siri,” but the HomePod would continue on and take the request.

However, I have talked with a couple of other people who have seen more instances of other devices butting in on “Hey Siri,” with noted Apple podcaster Jerry Goldbaum being one of them. It will be interesting doing some testing to find out what the Handoff distances and conditions are, and if they are consistent. Siri is inconsistent with everything else, so who knows. My experience so far may not match yours. If you are a HomePod owner, feel free to chime in and let me know how this is working for you.

Siri doesn’t always play nice, though

The lack of Handoff on the HomePod is a complete mystery to me. As kludgy and unfocused as the original Apple Watch was, it shipped with a better Siri experience (thanks in large part to a mic that was designed for voice queries) and the ability to hand anything it couldn’t do over to the iPhone. If you asked for something that required a web search, Siri would direct you to Safari on your phone, where your query was being processed. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot better than complete disconnect.

Even if Siri was capable of handling the request on the Watch, as with Maps and directions, it was simultaneously cued up on your iPhone, as well. This is still one of my favorite features of the Watch. Music also controlled well from one device to the other, with the Watch making an excellent remote for iPhone playback. It made the experience better, and also made it easier to work around the early Watch’s shortcomings.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the HomePod yet. I can ask for the traffic to a location, and Siri will tell me how it is right now, and the estimated travel time to get there, but that’s as far as I get. Why can’t I ask for directions, or even better, why doesn’t Siri ask me after a traffic check, “Would you like me to set up that route for you?”

The same case applies for web searches that HomePod can’t perform. Why couldn’t Apple build in Handoff, so that the request would just roll over to my iPhone? I can’t understand that at all, especially since Apple isn’t going multi-user off the bat. That REALLY makes no sense. The lack of Handoff combined with the existing Siri features that HomePod is missing really make it feel disconnected at times. In my opinion, Apple needs to fill these gaps first, before moving on to newer features.

Conclusion

That’s all for today, folks. I did try my HomePod out with my Apple TV last night. I was somehow able to resuscitate my old, once dead Remote and switch the Apple TV over to my new WiFi Router and get it back online again. So more testing and work on that is forthcoming. Until then, have a lovely evening. If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog. I would love to hear from you.


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