Controlling music is extremely easy, providing you have a subscription to Apple Music, I have asked Siri for several artists, genres and albums without any issues. Voice volume control is far more granular than other Smart Speakers I have used, you are able to select any volume between 0% - 100%, the highest I have used so far is 50% but the unit is in quite a small room.
Podcasts work perfectly, I have asked for a number of different podcasts each of which were found immediately. The speech is clear and I felt no desire to have any of the audio levels different. At launch HomePod does not seem to have support for any audiobooks, not even those purchased in the iTunes Store, I’m really hoping this functionality will be added very soon as I feel audiobooks are an integral feature of a Smart Speaker. Radio is extremely limited at launch, only Beats1 is available for streaming, but as the BBC is used for news and sport updates I’m hoping radio integration with at least BBC stations will come soon. The ability to stream from an iOS device to the HomePod using Airplay (Airplay 2 is another feature that is promised for later in the year) partly negates the lack of Audiobook and Radio integration but it would be great to have these controllable via Siri on the HomePod.
I have not set up any home automation yet, however, I do have an Eve Smart Plug which I will be trying soon. A major automation feature that has been ignored is a sleep timer, many people (myself included) use this type of product to go sleep with music in the background and a sleep timer is a vital feature that has been omitted.
A voice feature which is very welcome is the ability to send a text message. Integration with your iCloud account means Siri can access the contacts there and message them, this I have tried and was successful. Siri also has the ability to read back incoming messages to you.
I feel that the HomePod is a superior sounding Smart Speaker which has several vital features missing at launch. If the ability to control and play audiobooks, more radio stations and a sleep timer are added soon, this product will be a major contender in the Smart Speaker market and may not need third party apps and integration to make it a success. At the moment it is is a worthy addition to any home that is immersed in the Apple Ecosystem and wants high quality audio. Is it worth £319.00, in my view yes.