The Apple HomePod speaker is full of missed opportunities

  • The HomePod is full of missed opportunities.
  • It falls short of the Amazon Echo and Google Home without current support for multiroom music, and is walled off from other Apple products such as the Apple TV.
CNBC Tech: Apple HomePod 4

The biggest problem with Apple's new HomePod speaker isn't just that it's trapped inside Apple's walled garden — it's also not tied into Apple's ecosystem very well.

One big weakness is that it doesn't currently support stereo sound or multiroom playback. And new evidence spotted by 9to5Mac on Tuesday suggests Apple has delayed these features further into the year.

That means if you buy two HomePods, you can't currently play the same song in two different rooms, or pair them together to play music or audio in stereo mode. That's a feature that's already supported by Google Home and Amazon Echo. It was originally expected to launch with iOS 11.3 sometime soon, but don't appear in Apple's latest iOS 11.3 beta, 9to5Mac noted.

In CNBC's recent review of the HomePod, we found the audio quality was excellent, but we didn't recommend it for most people, in part because of these limitations (you're stuck requesting songs from Apple Music by voice, for example).

That's not all.

Apple missed other opportunities with the HomePod, too. You can't, for example, use it to control your Apple TV. That means, while on your couch, you aren't able to say "Hey Siri, play 'Top Gun' on my Apple TV." This, again, is a feature already supported by other products. Google Home can tap into Netflix and YouTube (though not Google Play Movies, to be fair). The Amazon Echo can also play content available through Amazon's Prime Video service and other partners that are supported on its bevvy of Fire TV products. "Alexa play the movie 'Hackers,'" for example, will show me if that movie is available through Prime Video or Amazon's partners, such as Crackle.

As mentioned in the CNBC review of Apple's speaker, the HomePod also can't be used to place phone calls directly — another feature supported by Google Home and the Amazon Echo. Instead, you have to place a call from your iPhone first and then hand it off to the HomePod which serves as a speakerphone of sorts.

It can't give you recipes, order you goods from nearby retailers for delivery, or play music from anything other than Apple Music unless you control the tunes from your smartphone (in which case any app with AirPlay will work).

Apple has proven its ecosystem is among the most powerful on the market. Its Macs and iPhones work hand in hand with features like Hand-off and Continuity. It's bizarre that the HomePod, though it sounds fantastic, seems so left out.