Well Played, Apple

Whelp, they got me. Whereas yesterday there was none, today there exists a HomePod for the HomePod mini to be mini” to! Just yesterday, I wrote:

I got excited about that last-minute big HomePod rumor, but alas, no sign of a new big brother in the family.

I thought the Mac mini and MacBooks Pro announcement would be the only new products we saw from Apple for a while, but they’ve gone and done a double-hitter! Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a longer run of press release announcements like the that week back in March 2019, which was like a clearing of the decks before a full-on keynote later that month.

As it is, I got a shock of excitement when a buddy texted this morning, NEW HOMEPODS!!!!!” Like in the days of old, I rushed to apple.com to check out the newest goodies with all the thrill of Christmas morning. It was fun to be surprised by Apple once again.

As for the second-generation HomePod itself, there seem to be relatively few new whizz-bang features since the original (temperature and humidity sensor, S7 chip, Thread radio, and Ultra Wideband chip) — and a few regressions (fewer tweeters, fewer microphones). That being said, I’m still delighted that it exists. I haven’t had any of the failures that have plagued other first-generation HomePod owners, but if I did, I wouldn’t hesitate to replace it with the new one. The impeccable room-filling sound quality and convenience of Siri as a hands-free kitchen assistant have been firmly planted in our home. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to slot something else in its place if and when the original dies.

However, I did do a double-take at the new HomePod’s price: $299. That’s the same price that the original sold at when it departed for the big orchard in the sky. I would have bet that Apple would shy away from that high of a price, considering that they struggled to sell even the first batch they manufactured.

On the other hand, Adders, writing on their microblog, makes a good point about the price compared to another Apple audio product:

I just don’t understand why people think £250 for Airpods Pro - single user devices, with a lifespan of a few years - is fine, but £299 for a HomePod, a whole household device that will last half a decade or more, is not.

It remains to be seen — well, heard — if the new HomePod’s quality can stand confidently next to the original’s. But I remain hopeful! I do wish, though, that Apple had bitten the bullet and added a physical audio input. That way, if the software ever does crap out, its high-quality hardware could live on. So it goes.

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