Apple HomePod Theater: The Lacking Hyperlink? | by Michael Lengthy | Jun, 2021

How Apple missed a significant alternative within the dwelling.

I used to be in an Apple retailer final week seeking to purchase one other HomePod. No, not the brand new HomePod mini, however the authentic HomePod. Solely to search out out that they have been now not in inventory within the retailer — or on-line, for that matter.

Sure. I do know that the unique HomePod was discontinued months in the past. However one may nonetheless purchase them from Apple “whereas provides final”. And apparently, that day had come.

All of which lead me to consider the HomePod, its place in Apple’s lineup, and, above all, what I think about to be considered one of Apple’s few main advertising and marketing screwups.

A particularly temporary historical past of the HomePod

The HomePod was introduced with nice fanfair at Apple’s 2017 WWDC, however didn’t really begin transport till February, 2018.

HomePod on show throughout WWDC 2017

HomePod critiques have been combined. It was usually extremely praised for its design and superb sound high quality in comparison with different audio system in its value vary. Nevertheless it was additionally extensively criticized in that it actually solely labored properly with Apple Music and likewise for its $349.00 price ticket, a value a lot increased than that of different “sensible” audio system.

Additionally, admittedly, Siri tended to suck when in comparison with the options provided by Alexa and Hey, Google!, however that’s a wholly totally different article.

The competitors

Apple, being Apple, positioned HomePod on the excessive finish of the sensible speaker lineup, even pricing it properly above that of different main multi-room dwelling audio system suppliers like Sonos.

This positioned it at an apparent and somewhat hanging drawback when in comparison with less expensive sensible audio system like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s “Residence” sequence of audio system.

This drawback was futher exacerbated by the truth that each Amazon and Google priced their choices as loss-leaders, usually charging a token quantity for the {hardware} merely as a way to get their patrons into Amazon’s and Google’s eco-systems. Amazon, after all, desires to make it as straightforward as attainable for folks to purchase Amazon’s merchandise, whereas Google, being Google, desires as a lot consumer data as attainable.

And each need to make it straightforward for customers to devour their respective streaming merchandise like Prime Music and YouTube Music.

On the flip aspect, the dearth of audio inputs and the lack to make use of something however Apple music lower off just about any consideration of the system from true audiophiles who may not have balked at such a excessive value.


In April 2019, Apple diminished the worth to USD $299, however the value drop nonetheless didn’t do a lot to spice up gross sales.

And so, undercut on the low finish and usually ignored on the opposite, HomePod was formally discontinued on March 12, 2021, in favor of the newer, smaller, and maybe extra importantly… dramtically cheaper HomePod Mini. To cite Apple’s terse assertion on the matter.

HomePod Mini has been successful since its debut final fall, providing prospects superb sound, an clever assistant, and sensible dwelling management all for simply $99. We’re focusing our efforts on HomePod mini.

HomePod mini

So let’s speak mini for a second. Unveiled on October 13, 20, the mini was launched at a radical $99 value level. (Radical, after all, for Apple, as competitor’s merchandise are nonetheless considerably cheaper.)

However whereas the mini added some new options like Continuity handoff, its smaller measurement nonetheless locations it at an obstacle in music playback when in comparison with the unique HomePod. Whereas everybody usually agrees that the sound is sweet, and nonetheless higher than that of comparable merchandise provided by the competitors, it nonetheless lacks the deep, wealthy harmonics of which the unique HomePod was succesful.

You’ll be able to, after all, enhance issues by shopping for two HomePod minis and utilizing them as a stereo pair… however even collectively two of them nonetheless don’t fairly evaluate to the sound produced by the unique HomePod.

Particularly in the event you be part of two of the authentic HomePods collectively in a stereo pair.

So let’s speak about that.

HomePod Stereo

As talked about, you should utilize the Residence app to affix two HomePods collectively right into a single stereo pair and, fairly frankly, when one does so I discover the sound to be superb. Take the unique HomePod’s deep and wealthy sound and multiply it by two, then double it once more from the absolutely fashioned left and proper channels… it’s actually, actually good.

That mentioned, with two HomePods you’re taking a look at spending virtually $600 for the pair, and that’s a reasonably step value for lots of people to swallow for a system that’s restricted primarily to only enjoying Apple Music.

Apple may have promoted the stereo side and bumped gross sales a bit by providing a HomePod stereo bundle priced at, say, $499, however they didn’t.

Then once more, there’s extra to the house speaker market than simply music…

HomePod and Apple TV

Like many individuals who have been compelled to remain dwelling throughout the pandemic, I took the chance to improve my dwelling theater expertise. (Yeah, that’s a flowery means of claiming that I used the pandemic as an excuse to purchase a brand new TV and a brand new sound bar.)

After I’d bought the brand new TV (however earlier than I purchased a brand new sound bar), I disconnected my authentic sound bar and I attempted connecting my HomePod stereo pair to my Apple TV. In keeping with Apple,

“In case you have an Apple TV 4K and HomePod (2018), you may create an immersive expertise with a single HomePod or a stereo pair. If you arrange dwelling theater, you may take pleasure in Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital 7.1, or Dolby Digital 5.1 encompass sound.”

So I believed the experiment could be worthwhile. And it was. Albeit considerably disappointing.

The sound high quality and definition was spectacular… contemplating the dimensions of the audio system. And Dolby Atmos was as immersive because it could possibly be… when working off of a single pair of audio system. However all the system lacked punch and Atmos suffered and not using a clearly outlined rear-channel.

My authentic sound bar was a Sony 5.1 system with a wired subwoofer, and although it lacked the whole immersion of Atmos, it nonetheless managed to supply a greater dwelling theater expertise.

All primarily due to that deep, highly effective subwoofer. It’s trite, I do know, however once I see an explosion onscreen I need to really feel it as properly.*

HomePod Theater

All of which brings us again round to what I think about to be Apple’s missed advertising and marketing alternative.

Apple conceded the higher-end speaker market once they discontinued the unique HomePod, however what if as an alternative they’d determined to go all-in?

What if Apple had gone after the high-end sound bar market?

What if Apple had offered a system with a pair of authentic, wi-fi HomePods for front-channel sound, and a pair of wi-fi HomePod minis for rear-channel sound… after which added a specifically designed subwoofer, the HomePod Theater, to the combination?

All able to enjoying with Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital 7.1, or Dolby Digital 5.1 encompass sound? Plus, now that it’s been added to Apple Music, you’d additionally get room-filling Dolby Atmos sound when listening to your tunes.

What in the event you had readability… and separation… and punch?

So, let’s say we’re at $600 for a pair of authentic pods, then we add $200 for a pair of mini rear-channel pods, after which, say, Apple being Apple, we add $1,000 for a subwoofer?

That totals as much as $1,800, which is in dear sound bar territory to make sure, however… it’s not completely unreasonable. The LG SN11RG sound bar I really ended up shopping for retails for $1,699.99 (although after all I waited for a sale to catch one at a barely higher value).

LG SN11RG 7.1 Channel soundbar

Then once more, Apple may have achieved one other bundle since they’re now promoting a house theater system, and priced all of them collectively at $1,499.00 or so.

I’d have purchased one.

Completion Block

So what do you suppose?

Ought to Apple have gone after the house theater market? Might Apple have gone after the house theater market?

I personally suppose Apple may have pulled it off. They’ve Apple TV and Apple Music and each of them put this instantly of their wheelhouse.

And whereas folks might have balked at spending that a lot cash simply to hearken to music, they won’t have achieved so if the audio system may have achieved double-duty as a part of an immersive, highly effective dwelling theater expertise.

Like I mentioned, I’d have purchased one.

How about you?

Let me know within the feedback beneath.

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