You Can Jailbreak the HomePod Now, but Maybe Just Get a Different Speaker

You Can Jailbreak the HomePod Now, but Maybe Just Get a Different Speaker
Photo: Adam Clark Estes/Gizmodo

While you’ve been able to jailbreak iPhones and iPads for years, the same couldn’t be said for HomePods. Until now. If you’re so inclined, you can now jailbreak the first-generation HomePod via the latest Checkra1n update. Yay, I guess?

Jailbreaking has gotten less popular over the years, but the main appeal is working around Apple’s software restrictions to get apps not featured in the App Store or features that Apple simply hasn’t introduced yet that other platforms have. As reported by 9to5 Mac, Twitter user L1ngL1ng shared a screenshot last week showing them accessing the HomePod’s OS. However, as the Checkra1n release notes say, this is jailbreak provides only partial support for the HomePod and doesn’t work with the newly released HomePod Mini.

So, uh, what would you do if you were to jailbreak a HomePod? Ostensibly, you could replace Siri with a more competent assist, as Siri is one of the main reasons why the HomePod is a lacklustre smart speaker to begin with. You could perhaps also figure out a way to get Spotify on there natively (though the AirPlay 2 workaround is pretty decent). Free the HomePod from HomeKit as a smart home hub? Or maybe you could also just tweak the touchpad interface if it’s not to your liking. In any case, we’ll have to see what devs come up with given this the jailbreak only partially supports the HomePod.

However, jailbreaking does come with risks. Mainly, you’ll be shelling out for a pretty expensive speaker and voiding the warranty. Plus, jailbreaks aren’t guaranteed to work on future software updates, so you might not get newer features that Apple creates for a long while. On top of that, you’ll miss out on security updates — which in the case of anything related to the smart home, isn’t great from a security standpoint.

For $US300 ($412) and all that hassle, you should probably just get a different smart speaker. The $US100 ($137) Nest Audio and fourth-generation Amazon Echo both offer better digital assistants and more widely supported smart home controls. They’re also not too shabby in the audio department, and I’d venture that having tried both, the ball Echo’s bass could give the HomePod a run for its money. Meanwhile, the Sonos One is $US200 ($275) and supports both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and you could use it to build out a home theatre setup (something that Apple says will come to the HomePod sometime this year). Also, Sonos speakers support AirPlay 2, making it very very easy to slot them into your Apple ecosystem of gadgets.

The main reason to buy a HomePod (or a HomePod Mini) is the Apple-ness of it. If you can somehow stomach Siri’s incompetence, that is. It’s the smart speaker for people so deep in the Apple ecosystem, there’s less appeal to invest in third-party hardware. For everyone else, there are several other, easier, less expensive, and non-warranty voiding ways to set up a home theatre or smart home.