The $350 HomePod smart speaker is Apple’s very late response to the Amazon Echo and Google Home Voice Assistant, but is it a product worth your hard-earned money?
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Before I go too far, it’s important to know what HomePod is technically doesn’t compete with the Echo or Home, but it’s very easy to want to compare three in the same category, and it’s entirely justified—all three are voice-controlled smart speakers, more or less. However, Apple is heavily promoting the HomePod as its first speaker and second voice assistant. Whereas Echo and Dom are voice assistants first and speakers second. This gives the HomePod a lot of unique pros and cons.
The sound quality is absolutely incredible
For its size and price, the HomePod sounds amazing. Compared to the Echo, Google Home, and some other pretty decent speakers I have in my house, the HomePod blows them all out of the water.
The low frequency response is amazing (but doesn’t confuse the sound as much) and the highs and mids are very crisp and clear. HomePod even comes with a «smart» equalizer of sorts where it uses its 360-degree microphones to detect walls and obstacles and then adjusts the equalizer accordingly to get the best sound no matter where you place the speaker. ,
Don’t get me wrong, echo and Google Home sound pretty good, but even if you’re not a big audiophile, you’d be surprised how much better the HomePod sounds.
It uses Siri
As for the capabilities of the HomePod voice assistant, there are quite a few of them. For starters, it uses Siri, and anyone with an Apple product can attest to the shortcomings of Siri.
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In addition, there are many other restrictions on what you can use voice control for. You can only use one timer at a time. You can only control SmartKome HomeKit devices. You cannot search for recipes and other simple tasks. The list goes on. However, you can ask Siri to read your latest text messages, which is pretty cool, even if it comes with its own caveats.
Compared to Alexa or Google Assistant, Siri is in the minor league of voice assistants. So if you’re thinking about getting a smart speaker primarily with its voice control capabilities, then you might want to skip the HomePod.
It’s locked into the Apple ecosystem
As with everything else made by Apple, the HomePod is locked into the company’s own ecosystem. This requires the user to have an iPhone to even set it up in the first place.
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Also, the only music streaming service that you can control with your voice is Apple Music. If you don’t have an Apple Music subscription, it plays Beats 1 Radio by default and all you can do is play and pause it with your voice.
However, you can AirPlay just about anything to HomePod from your iPhone or iPad. Therefore, if you are a Spotify user, you can play music from the Spotify app on your mobile device and stream it to your HomePod via AirPlay. It’s not the best solution, but it’s all you have if you’re not using Apple Music.
And of course, as mentioned above, you can control your SmartHome devices using Hey Siri on your HomePod, but only if those devices are HomeKit compatible.
There is no bluetooth
Speaking of streaming audio to your HomePod from your mobile device, HomePod doesn’t have Bluetooth. There is a Bluetooth chip inside, but it’s only there for AirPlay purposes.
This means you can’t use Android devices, or anything other than Apple products, with HomePod (and interestingly, Macs aren’t supported). So, if you have a friend who uses an Android phone and wants to play his music on HomePod, he is SOL.
It’s possible that Apple will unlock the Bluetooth HomePod chip sometime in the future, but you shouldn’t count on it.
So, who should buy it exactly?
The HomePod is certainly a strange specimen, but it is a speaker aimed at a specific user base. In short, HomePod is perfect for you if:
You want the highest possible sound quality for its form factor
Do you have an iPhone
Are you using Apple Music?
A HomePod might still be fine if you’re not using Apple Music, but the lack of voice control for other music options is pretty limiting (other than pausing and skipping to the next song, etc.).
If sound quality isn’t very important to you, but you still need a smart speaker, you’d be much better off just using Amazon Echo or Google Home, or even something like Sonos Play:1 which has Alexa built in. Sonos has a reputation for great sound quality. , and Echo and Home sound pretty decent. Plus, they’re a lot cheaper than the $350 HomePod.