Opinion: The Apple HomePod is coming in a few days and there are still so many questions about it. It supports only Apple Music? It doesn’t even do AirPlay 2 yet? It’s $500 AUD? I’m still excited about it.
Okay, maybe not so much specifically about the HomePod. I’m more excited about this movement of home speakers and audio assistants overall because it’s pointing towards a resurgence in audio entertainment becoming a more popular medium.
I’m a sucker for podcasts. I love the absolute simplicity of them. The personality and humour you get from the hosts as well as being a source of news in a laid back manner. I’ve replaced a lot of my old media habits with podcasts. For example, I deleted the YouTube app from both my iPhone and iPad. I was watching way too much junk that YouTube’s algorithms kept recommending me and keeping me on their platform. Procrastinating.
You control the podcast feed. You customise exactly what you want to listen to and where you spend your time. If you put a bit of research in you can find some incredible podcasts out there in the wild. You don’t waste your time.
Another example of audio as entertainment, that I’ve had experience with, is using an Amazon Echo. I no longer have one where I’m living right now but I had access to an Echo for most of 2017. What I liked to do with the Echo was ask it “what’s in the news” and it would give you a really detailed summary of the news straight away. This was great in the morning during breakfast or as soon as I arrived back from work and sat down in the kitchen.
I’d still use this feature today if I had an Echo but I’d also listen to my podcasts. To be able to walk into a room and say play ATP or The Talk Show and have the episode play from an exact spot where I was up to previously would be the dream. This already works really well when you use something like Overcast which syncs between devices perfectly.
The beauty of the podcast is that in this type of scenario you’re able to do other stuff whilst you consume the content. Yeah you can watch TV and eat or even read and eat, but arguably need to be quite switched on to keep up with what’s happening. You certainly can’t do other stuff like write an article or code whilst reading or watching TV whereas a podcast is perfect. It might just be background noise but you pick up things here and there. Plus, I personally like having some ambient noise around me whilst working which is why I often get coffee and write.
Home audio devices aren’t the only thing driving up a resurgence in audio as entertainment. You also have AirPods which are making it easier than ever to listen to audio on the go. This growth (on iOS anyway) is dependant on the improvement of Siri because it still sucks at taking commands and doesn’t integrate properly with third party apps. Google Assistant and Alexa are way ahead in this regard.
It would be great if the HomePod supported third party apps like Overcast or updated their own podcasting service so it was on par. In saying that, I like that HomePod has this huge focus on having really clean audio (and nothing else yet) as this is what will set it apart from the Echo and the Google Home. Get this right and it will sell; then focus on the other stuff later seems to be the tactic.
I’m predicting a big couple of years for audio as entertainment if things like Siri and Apple Podcasts improve. We might even be harkening back to the days of gathering around the radio to be entertained (1950s style) but now instead of a radio it’ll be something like the HomePod.