Tether end and the HomePod Mini

I’ve been meaning to post a couple of updates about some Apple kit that has been less that stellar in my experience.

First, the HomePod Mini, which has been a huge disappointment to me. I hate to write this because it was a gift, but I kind of hate it, and I’m so done with it really that I’ve taken to using my old Wonderboom bluetooth speaker in the kitchen instead of trying to use the HomePod.

I first wrote about HomePod Mini here. Back then, I said that the Siri features of HomePod Mini could be quite useful, when it works, but weren’t reason enough to use it. I’d say that 90% of the time, it works to set a kitchen timer; 80% of the time it’ll add something to my shopping list in Bring (if I use the magic combination of words), and it’ll occasionally tell you whether you need to wear a jumper or not.

But the audio features are still useless, to the point that I feel like throwing it out of the window. You’re supposed to be able to transfer what you’re playing on your phone to the speaker by just holding the phone near the speaker. Does this work? Maybe one time in ten. The rest of the time, nope. So you tap the Airplay symbol on your phone and choose it manually instead. Does this work? Not always. About 50% of the time, I’d say. And even when it does work, it often just randomly stops working after a minute or so. And then it might let you reconnect… or not. HomePod Mini especially seems to hate BBC Sounds and the Overcast podcast player.

My daughter suggested I try it with Apple’s own Podcasts app, but although I got as far as downloading it, I just can’t bring myself to use it. It’s so horrible as an app.

On those occasions when the audio playback from the phone does fail, you look at the (very grubby by now) speaker and wonder what the fucking point of it is.

What is 100% reliable is what happens if you accidentally brush the speaker while reaching for a stock cube or something. It immediately starts blasting music at quite a high volume, to the confusion of whoever it was did the brushing. And the music it plays is whatever music you were last playing on it, which might have been six months ago. Great. It can’t remember the podcast or the radio drama you were playing a minute ago, but whatever was up in Apple Music in 1935, sure.

In the end, all it is designed to do well is respond to the command, “Hey, Siri, play some music”, at which point it will play some random shit “tailored” for you. In other words, nothing you’d actually want to listen to. It doesn’t even want to play your own library or your own playlists. It just wants to feed you its algorithm directly from Music, bypassing your phone, because frankly it cannot maintain a connection to your phone for more than a minute or two.

It really is a piece of shit, and a Wonderboom sounds just as good, plus you can carry it with you into the next room if you want to. Sure, it can’t set a timer, but that’s hardly earth shattering.

Finally, and briefly, I have to complain that the Beats Fit Pro noise cancelling earbuds I ordered a while back have been a bit disappointing in long term use. As I indicated in my initial review, the sound quality (for music) is pretty good. For some podcasts, however, they are a bit on the quiet side. This is a problem because as you may have gathered, 90% of my listening is to podcasts and radio dramas.

As to the noise cancelling, well, it doesn’t seem very cancelly. I mentioned in my review that you should use Transparency mode when exercising outdoors, but the truth is you could use Noise Cancelling mode and still hear the cars coming. I mowed the lawn wearing them today, and I could barely tell the noise cancelling was on.

But the worst thing about them is: those wingtips designed to hold them securely in your ears? They hurt. Not both ears, no, that would be too ordinary. My right ear is fine. My left ear, on the other hand, hurts every time I put them in. It’s like being stabbed in the ear.

So in answer to the question posed in my earlier review: yes, I am too old for them.

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