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HomePod failed me – the stunningly GOOD and the very worst of Apple, and failing me at the 1st hurdle

I am sitting here, surrounded by Apple gear, and yet I have just had one of the worst weekends – and all because of Apple’s new HomePod

HomePod

That was the day, that was

HomePod & Apple did for me this weekend – well, let’s put it like this – I saw both the good and bad sides of the company I spend five days a week writing about.

I guess the story all tracks back to Friday, if I am being upfront with you.

It all started so well. I was up early, and feeling fired up to get writing Friday’s blog – Appleviews. I knew the day was going to be ‘by the numbers’, but I figured, if all went to plan, then I should be on the sofa, feet up, with a glass of wine by 7pm latest.

Best laid plans n’all that…

It’s here

As I was writing the blog last Friday, the knock at the door came, signalling the arrival of my new, white, 2023 HomePod. This was the big one…the one I missed first time around, and had always promised myself I’d buy if they ever became available again.

It’s odd, but the excitement is different these days when a new, white box arrives. Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t wait to find out what’s inside, but these days, it is more measured.

That’s not so much to do with age and maturity catching up on me, which hopefully they never will, but more to do with making content from the products. Almost from the moment I order it, my mind begins to whir with storyboards, angles, yarns and trying to find a unique way of talking about the product. Whilst I don’t always write about new gear, I will almost inevitably make a video about it.

No longer can I just rip the box open, plonk it on the desk, and play. These days, there has to be a strategy. Every move becomes a possible opportunity, a click, a view, a sub, or a like. I hope that doesn’t sound too affected, or that I don’t still feel like a kid in the proverbial candy store when anything Apple arrives. I do!

I love the path I have chosen – writing every day, and making videos about tech, but, now, I at least try, to be a little more business minded about the whole thing. And so, it was on Friday.

The wheels came off

Back to Friday, the plan was this –

  1. write/upload blog
  2. edit & upload podcast (audio and video) which was recorded the night prior
  3. shoot short about HomePod
  4. shoot member’s newsletter video (link below to join the list)

The first signs that the weekend was not going to be one of the most restful came with the edit for the podcast. For some reason, the dialogue was not in sync. I sorted it, eventually, but it cost me almost six hours out of the day. I’d finished writing Friday’s blog by 12.30pm, which was a fraction earlier than I had figured.

I’d started the edit by 1pm, and by 6.30pm…I was still on it. I’m a perfectionist, it’s my fault I know, but it just had to be right. OK, props for finding the issue, and sorting it, but boy, oh boy, it had taken some time.

The HomePod was still sitting where I’d left it, some seven hours earlier, still untouched. In the end, I did make a quick short about it, and got the newsletter shot too – but it was now 9.30pm, and I was pretty done-for.

The HomePod would be sorted tomorrow…

Nothing unusual here

So, I got through all the bits and bobs that I’d wanted to do Saturday, and so it was, around 6pm I finally set about un-boxing. There was only so much I could film about it, but the camera was in place, and the scene was set.

The other half asked me how long it would take – 15 minutes…30 tops, I said. I’d done the minis before, setting up HomePods is not rocket science…easy times…

Hmmm, well, as you’ve probably guessed, it didn’t all go quite to plan. 7.30pm came and passed, and still, the Apple TV had no output, and I had no HomePod. I’d installed the latest OS, restarted it, and removed it from the network more times than I’d care to admit.

Time to give in – a fresh head always helps, they say.

Sunday morning, definitely by Sunday morning I’d have it sorted I told myself. Time then to sit back and watch the latest episode of Shrinking – brilliant series.

The first hour of Sunday passed, and I was still no further forward. It was then, I finally caved in…I hated to admit, but I needed help. Apple Care would know the issue – I must’ve simply overlooked something…they’d have a quick fix…forever the optimist, you see!

For some context, in case you have the same problem, my home network is super simple – no VPNs, no weird Firewalls – all out of the box router settings. But, the issue we kept stumbling over was that of a Peer-to-Peer’ error message that kept stumbling our efforts.

The good

I’d mentioned earlier, that I had seen both the good, and the bad of Apple this weekend.

I’ve had no dealings with Apple Care in I don’t know how long. The care I received yesterday was staggering. Do you know, in total, we were speaking for over five hours, and we wrapped up at 8pm Sunday evening! The problem is not yet fixed, and it has now been escalated to a high-level engineering team.

The guy from Apple Care screen-controlled my phone, my Mac, sent me endless web pages, and was patient as heck. We went through router settings together, checked Firewalls, flattened the HomePod and even removed my ‘home’ app.

You know that feeling you get with most call centres – that feeling of dread, and that you are just a number. Honestly, this could not have been further from the truth. Whenever he promised to call back he did, and even at the end of his long day, he was willing to keep giving more of his time.

The fact we are where we are, is not his fault at all. When it comes to rating him, I’ll give him the highest marks possible. Amazing service.

The gift that keeps giving

The HomePod, as I write, is still broken – well, sort of.

Siri recognises me as David, and answers simple commands. The main problems we now have are that my iPhone 14 Pro can’t AirPlay to it, can’t control it, and I can’t use Handoff.

My Apple TV 4K won’t see it as a default speaker output. The only way I can use it with Apple TV, is as a temporary output.

But here’s the rub – my 2015 iMac, both MacBooks, and my old iPad mini can all see the speaker, and AirPlay to it. The iPad can even Handoff to it. Where we had begun to think that the speaker may be at fault, given every other device I have can see it, that now seems pretty unlikely.

So, we are left with a premium iPhone 14 Pro – £1700 worth of phone, that is only six months old, and a year-old Apple TV 4K, that won’t play nicely with a brand-new £300 HomePod.

As a last result, before ending the call, to allow me to go sit in the corner of a darkened room, staring in to the abyss, we even tried a soft reset on my iPhone. I am praying, with all might, that engineering doesn’t come back and suggest a full reset.

That would mean for weeks to come, every app, and site I go to, would once again have to be signed in to. It’s the part I hate most about getting a new phone, but, I guess, if it gets the job done, I’ll have to do, what I have to do…

It really shouldn’t be this hard, though, should it?

Wrapping up

I’ll have to wait a couple of days now, before we get any more answers or suggestions from the engineering department at Apple. In fairness, my amazing advisor yesterday did warn me of that.

We made small steps yesterday, I suppose. Disabling the 5G bandwidth on the router has helped generally, and we managed to rule out many other possibilities too.

The oddest thing of all though, and the one we couldn’t get our heads around, was both HomePod minis connected easily to the same network, same router, same room, same TV, same home.

Here’s my final take – it’s a long shot, granted – but I wonder if Thread and Matter are at all to blame. The not so smart side of the smart home.

The minis aren’t Thread or Matter ready. I am just left wondering, particularly with the Thread radio inside the HomePod, if it is tripping the speaker and iPhone up somehow? I dunno…I ‘m grasping at threads of hope now.

Oh, after all that, if you were wondering about the actual speaker side of HomePod, well, so far, so good.

As a speaker, it is a massive, I mean MASSIVE improvement over the pair of minis. Any reservations I’d had about losing the pair, for a single speaker, were soon cast aside.

Speech is handled better with this speaker. The mids, are way, way more sympathetic. The muddiness of the minis has been replaced with some clear, present, punchy mids. There is a little more sibilance than the minis, but that could be because it sounds to have a wider frequency response.

And, if it’s bass, you want – then boy, does the HomePod deliver! It’s a proper room trembler. I had to remind myself that all that sound was coming from a speaker only 6 or 7-inches tall. I want to love this HomePod, I really do…the jury is out, though, until it’s working properly, and fully functional.

Have you got any suggestions, then please, PLEASE let me know.

As a speaker, it’s delivered – as a home hub…who knows. Is this the future?

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4 Responses

  1. Hi,

    I hear you. The HomePod is not only the worst Apple I ever own, but the worst product I ever own. I have so many issues, and every new OS brings new issues. It’s plain terrible. Now I had to unpair all my stereo pairs to minimize the issues. I actually spend more time troubleshooting the HomePods than enjoying them.

    1. One of mine stopped working altogether recently, and I did have big issues with the big, main HomePod, but since then its been great and I love it!

  2. Every company can come up with a dud and while the homepod sound is fabulous, it is now, (for me anyway, and judging by Reddit posts etc., I’m not alone in this) a rounded, black brick and certainly not for the first time in my ownership.

    Sonos had their oops moment with the original Roam, but otherwise, for me with over a decade of experience with them, a far more stable and reliable bet.

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