Apple HomePod Hands-on Review

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So this is the HomePod. The HomePod is apple answer to Google Home and the Amazon Echo, and every other smart speaker out there with a voice assistant. It’s a $350 speaker that has Siri. The basic idea is pretty simple. It’s covered in a weird, spongy fabric. There’s a touch display on top, and it’s surprisingly heavy. But the HomePod is pretty limited.

Siri just can’t do as much as other assistants, and the only music service you can control with your voice is Apple Music. If you’re a Spotify person, the HomePod is probably not for you, and I think Apple knows it’s pretty limited because all of the company’s focus is on sound quality. The truth is, most other smart speakers sound crappy and the HomePod sounds incredible. So, I’m a huge speaker nerd.

Apple HomePod
Apple HomePod

My house is full of speakers. So, there’s a lot here to compare the HomePod to, especially since Apple says the HomePod is all about music first, and smart assistant stuff second, and the HomePod sounds incredible for its size and price.

We’ve has been comparing it to the new Amazon Echo, a bunch of Sonos speakers, including the new Sonos One, and the Play5, the Google Home and the Google Home Max, and even Bluetooth speakers like the UE Megaboom, and it’s just obviously better than all of them. The home pod isn’t just one speaker. It’s actually eight of them, all controlled by A8 processor and tons of custom software.

There’s also a total of seven microphones. When you first plug in the Home Pod and start playing music, it goes through a series of steps that tune the speakers to the room its in.

First, it uses the mikes to detect any walls nearby it knows how the sound will bounce off of them.

Second, it uses those seven tweeters to form a virtual array of sound beams that are assigned direct and ambient sounds like vocals and applause. The ambient channels are pointed at the walls to reflect the direct sounds are pointed out at the listener. Sometime during all of that, it detects the walls again to refine the model of the room it’s in.

Then, it analyzes the difference between the left and right channels of the music you’re playing to figure out what sound should go into what beams, ambient or direct. And then, it measures the position of the subwoofer and the reflections of the bass constantly you’re playing music to make sure the bass doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the music. And all of this happens at once, within like ten seconds.

If you move the Home Pod, an accelerometer inside detects motion and it does it all over again. In terms of ideas, I’m into, a virtual array of sound beams that points guitar solos at my face is super high on the list. So, here’s the thing. The Home Pod sounds great, but I don’t think it sounds so much better than other speakers that you should switch away from Spotify or give up all of the features of Alexa or Google Assistant.

If you’re a huge audio nerd, you will definitely be able to hear it. But if you’re just a regular person, you might get more from another speaker that sounds almost as good. Something like the Sonos One sounds almost as good, and you get a huge array of Alexa skills, Google Assistant support in the future, and you can use almost any music service you want.

Siri just can’t compete with Alexa’s huge array of skills, or Google Assistants ability to answer questions. Just blurry colors to let you know what it’s doing. The Amazon Echo Show and the Echo Spot actually show information. Google Assistant devices are coming out with screens too. There’s just something missing there. You can control Smart Home devices like locks and light switches but you have to use HomeKit, which is way more fiddly than what Amazon wants you to do with Alexa.

Siri cant even set more than one timer, which is the main thing I use my Alexa devices for the kitchen. It’s crazy. And in the weirdest omission of all, Siri on the Home Pod cant recognize multiple voices. This isn’t sound like a big deal but if you just power through the set up without thinking about it, literally anyone can ask the Home Podto read your text messages you’re on the same wifi network.

So, if I’m in the basement and the Home Pods up here, someone can just roll up to it and start sending iMessage or asking it to read my most recent message and I’ll never know.