In ExtraBITS this week, iMore’s Serenity Caldwell offers a preview of the HomePod’s sound quality, and Jason Snell of Six Colors shares his Apple report card based on grades from a panel of industry boffins.
 -- It will be a while before we see in-depth analyses of the HomePod’s audio capabilities, but iMore’s Serenity Caldwell was impressed by its sound quality in her first impressions of Apple’s new smart speaker. She compared it to the Amazon Echo, Google Home Max, and the Sonos One, and “came away from that test both impressed and shocked by the engineering Apple has put into making this tiny 7-inch speaker a musical powerhouse in your living room.” On the downside, she notes that the HomePod currently lacks stereo pairing, multi-room audio, multi-user support, and native support for services other than Apple Music.
 -- For the third year in a row, Jason Snell of Six Colors has issued his report card on Apple’s performance, once again polling 50 “writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.” This year, the group includes TidBITS staffers and contributors Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Josh Centers, Michael Cohen, Jeff Carlson, Glenn Fleishman, Joe Kissell, Kirk McElhearn, and Rich Mogull. Overall, the group expressed more positive opinions about how Apple did in 2017 than in 2016, but there were dips in software quality, hardware quality, and handling of social issues.