Apple is considered one of the technology industry’s prime innovators. Whether it’s ongoing iterative innovations– improvements which raise the bar every year– or whether it’s disruptive innovations that change whole industries, our favorite Mac maker remains late to every new technology party.
iPod? Late. Retail stores. Way late. iTunes Music Store? Uh huh. Late again. iPhone, iPad, Watch. Late, late, late. That seems to be Apple’s modus operandi and we saw it again with HomePod; late to the talking speaker and intelligent assistant party created by Amazon Echo and enhanced by Google Home.
Amazon has an Echo model with a camera and a screen. Google’s new Home Hub is an iPad-like device for the kitchen or nightstand, sans camera. Facebook has a new iPad-like device with a hefty screen and a camera that follows you around.
Does Apple’s HomePod needs a screen, too?
The case for yes is an always on, always friendly search and command center that uses Siri to respond, but also knows who you are from other family members. Think of an always on iPad with a stand. Talk to Siri the way you talk to Siri on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Do instant FaceTime or Skype videos. Watch YouTube movies. Stream TV shows and movies via iTunes. In other words, do everything you can already do with an iPad or iPhone but from a static device that just sits there waiting for your every command.
Isn’t that exactly what Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home Hub and Facebook’s new spy camera do?
The case for no is the obvious fact that we have similar devices which do exactly that already in iPhone and iPad– but both are more mobile and utilitarian than anything from Amazon, Google, or Facebook.
The key differentiator seems to be the interface. Echo, Home Hub, and Facebook are more voice activated, but it isn’t as if Siri is a slouch, especially with all the new user created Siri Shortcuts available in iOS 12.x.
A key problem I see with putting an iPad on the dining room table, or in the kitchen, or somewhere in the living room, is that Siri does not listen and understand voices as well as Amazon Echo and Alexa. HomePod, thanks to a bunch of additional microphones, seems to pick up voice commands easier than an iPad sitting across the room.
When Apple improves Siri to the point where Siri can recognize my voice and my commands vs. someone else in the family, then a HomePod-like device with a screen might be a useful addition. Might. For now, many of us are suffering from device fatigue just trying to manage an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod.
All these gadgets are nice, but there needs to be a simpler management system. Maybe Apple could build a device called FacePod which also doubles up as a single point of contact to help manage all our Apple gear.