Apple is launching its first Siri-powered home speaker. It’s called HomePod, and on the one hand it seems like a rather late entry into the space first created by the launch of the Amazon Echo in 2014.

But Apple thinks HomePod will stand out in a few ways. The company says the HomePod offers the kind of audio quality you’d expect from a high-end WiFi speaker from a company like Sonos as well as the smarts you’d expect from something like an Amazon Echo or Google Assistant.

The most important thing though? It’s tied into Apple’s ecosystem… so if you’re already using an iPhone, iPad, and Mac… this is probably the speaker you’re going to want.

You can use the “Hey Siri” wake word to interact with HomePod, control smart home devices that are tied into Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem, and stream music from Apple Music, among other things.

It also supports news updates, traffic alerts, stock information, alarms and timers, translation, and other features. It can answer questions, just like Siri on a phone or other device. And there’s a 6-microphone array to pick up your voice from across a room.

There’s also a 7 beam-forming tweeter array and directional control to fill a room with music.

Apple’s HomePod speaker measures about 7 inches tall and has a vaguely familiar design. And since it’s compatible with the multi-room audio capabilities baked into the Apple Airplay 2 service that rolls out with iOS 11, you could buy a few HomePods and use them to create a whole-home speaker solution similar to what you can get from a set of Sonus speakers.

But generally speaking, if you’re not already using Apple products? Then I’m not sure why you’d buy HomePod unless you’re really dissatisfied with the audio quality of Google Home or Amazon Echo devices (in which case you could just spend $50 on an Echo Dot and plug it into a high-end speaker).

Apple’s HomePod ships in the US, UK, and Australia in December, and it will eventually make its way to additional markets.

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6 replies on “HomePod is Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Sonos speakers”

  1. No interest in the “always listening” devices in my home. I would be willing to bet that Apple’s speaker sounds better than Amazon’s or Google’s speakers. The problem with that is I added three audio chromecasts to the stereos I have around the house. For less than $100 I can now fill the entire house with music. The speakers I already own will definitely sound better than any of the above mentioned devices. If you need portable, Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen. Any smartphone can perform the search functions. Is tapping a button so hard? The smartphone is always with you. These speakers (unless you buy several) will only live in one room.

  2. Apple people are well known for being happy to part with cash more often but I think Apple has probably gone a little too far here at $350. Most people never see the high retail cost of iPhones because the monthly charge is just wrapped up in their cell bill.
    iPads have always commanded more cash and so generally have Macbooks and such. However they have both typically delivered more for that extra money than the competition in ways that are meaningful to enough people.
    A $350 single speaker though? I think they’ll end up like Apple Watch. Meaning they’ll actually sell decently well but in nothing like the numbers people demand of an Apple product to be ‘successful’.
    To that end I think the reporting next year this time will mostly be about why the Homepod has ‘failed’, whether that’s necessarily fair or not. And I think that will end up damaging Apple’s tarnished image even further.
    In a more practical sense even at retail I can do a Google Home for $130 and a Chromecast for another $35 and add almost whatever speaker and amp I would like. That means I have about $200 to find something that sounds as nice. New. Used. Vintage. Whatever…
    Or for $50 an Echo Dot and now I have $300 for that speaker and amp.
    Or without the smarts I can almost go stereo with Sonos.
    Perhaps if Siri was the clear winner in speech recognition or information delivery. But it isn’t.
    Perhaps if Apple Music was the clear front runner for subscription music services but again – it isn’t.
    Personally I’d give Google Play Music the edge due to Youtube. Amazon’s service is fine and cheap at $4/month if you just tie it to the one device though. I know a few people who take advantage of that. Spotify remains super popular and I assume will be available on Homepod too but it’s also available everywhere else.
    I think they’ll sell a lot to Apple super fans and to people who don’t think twice about spending $350 on whatever. But I don’t see it being a really big seller.
    My guess is that within 1 or 2 years we see a much cheaper little buddy device with Siri on board but not as nice of a speaker.

    1. The added benefits of better sonics and similarity to what Sonos offers may afford them the shadow of a doubt of selling better than so-so. Sonos speakers aren’t cheap – they sound great, and being able to put 2-4 speakers to fill a big room completely is something that many people want. I own a Bose Soundlink 3 and while I took a chance on buying it, I’m really happy that I did – they are awesome speakers with full sound. You turn them all the way down and you can still hear every word that’s coming from someone singing or speaking, in crystal clarity. I think this is what ‘makes’ a good speaker.

      The difference here is that this is Apple, and not because it costs more does it mean it really is ‘better’. For all we know they used the same parts as Amazon or Google did for their offerings and are charging double the price. I’m also not a fan of Siri. As an iPhone 7 Plus owner who came from a GS 7 Edge, the one sore spot has been Siri and I constantly find myself using Google. All I ever use Siri to do is set alarms and reminders, it’s terrible with bringing up anywhere close to as good information as Google Now/Assistant and of course, isn’t contextual like Assistant at all. Alexa is mildly better and really competes based on having all those skills at our disposal.

      All we can do is wait and see, I guess.

      Ultimately, win-win would be Sonos speakers with Alexa+Google built in but “we can’t have our cake and eat ice cream and pie too®”.

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Apple version of this product type does its processing on-device which adds a layer of privacy as opposed to the Amazon and Google products which send everything to central servers…

    1. I think you are essentially wrong. Though I didn’t see the presentation and have only had time to catch some headlines so far. Apple seems to be pushing this speaker for its sonic ability. I believe the on-device processing they are referencing is to do with spatial processing to deliver the best sound in the context of your particular physical environment.
      Kind of like most home tuners have done for years now is my guess. Where you plug in a mic and it runs some tests and adjusts the output for best results in your space.
      For voice processing they don’t have the power yet to do it all on device. Just some keywords.
      Really it’s kind of irrelevant anyway as most of the stuff you want to know it has to go to the internet for anyway. I mean I suppose it could set some alarms/timers for you. I’m not sure it’s much of a privacy invasion for Amazon or Google to know that I set 20 minute timers a lot or often get up early.

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