With the opposition having already flooded the market, Apple entered the smart speaker race a little late with the Apple Homepod.
Launched in 2018, HomePod was Apple’s belated retort to Amazon’s Echo and Google Home smart speakers, which feature Alexa and Google Assistant.
Being late to the party is nothing new for Apple. When the original Apple I computer was launched back in 1976, personal computer companies were already well-established. Apple I just stepped in and did the job better. Same when the Macintosh computer was brought to market. The GUI and mouse were both cribbed from Xerox. The iPod and the iPhone were not the first of their kind either.
Put in this perspective, Apple launching the HomePod a year after Google Home burst to market and a full 3 years after Echo first stormed the scene, it’s the same old story.
The major variable, though, is how quickly Amazon and Google gained traction and how many units they’ve shifted. Back at the start of this year, Amazon has breached sales of 100 million Echo devices. According to an IDC report, Google Home outsold Echo for the first time in the opening quarter of 2019.
Other players like Sonos and Bose are getting in on the smart speaker action, too.
Apple HomePod As A Smart Speaker
HomePod was left languishing as only the ninth most popular smart speaker in 2018 according to a Strategy Analytics survey.
Where does HomePod slot into the puzzle as smart speakers evolve, then?
Well, although in terms of units shipped Apple HomePod might not hit a double-digit percentage, Apple cleaned up with 16% of total market revenue in the second quarter of last year. The speaker also attracted fully 70% of revenue for premium smart speakers priced over $200.
Apple HomePod slots in like pretty much any Apple product. The focus is firmly on dominating the upper end of a niche market, rather than any concern for overall market share.
Our stance remains unchanged from that review. HomePod is absolutely not the right smart speaker for everyone, just like a MacBook doesn’t work for everyone.
That said, for certain use cases, Apple HomePod certainly is the best option, so that’s what we’ll be doubling down on.
Today, we’ll highlight 6 reasons you’ll love Apple HomePod, kicking off with the room-rocking audio.
6 Reasons You'll Love Apple HomePod
1) Genuinely Impressive Audio
The sad truth is that the vast bulk of smart speakers fail roundly to deliver on the audio front.
At first glance, it might seem unthinkable for a product to miss the mark in terms of core functionality, but that’s the thing.
For many smart-speaker customers, these dinky devices are simply portals for controlling other devices with voice commands.
Here is where being honest about your needs and usage habits can help you get the best device first time round. Think about how you will use the device, not what features it has and how you could theoretically use it.
Despite what smart speakers permit in terms of controlling other connected devices hands-free, for most people who buy Echo, Home or HomePod speakers, the main reason for purchase is listening to music.
HomePod is designed first and foremost as a speaker, so if you place real value on the quality of the audio you’re listening to, you won’t regret the stiff investment. The first 9 of 12 minutes of the 2017 WWDC introduction to Apple HomePod were devoted entirely to the soundscape, with smarts only rating a brief mention at the end.
While HomePod looks ostensibly similar to Echo with a mesh covering and touch controls positioned on top, that’s where the similarity ends. The 5.5-pound HomePod packs a great deal of componentry inside.
7 tweeters are spread around the circumference, giving you impeccable sound wherever you are in the room. The number of tweeters gives a real sharpness and precision to the higher frequencies.
Sat proudly in the middle is a high-excursion sub. Obviously, this yields a bass that’s deep and thudding, far removed from the tiny approximation you get from most smart speakers. There’s nothing much that can be said to knock the low-end.
The only meaningful complaints about sound are a little clutter in the mid-range and slightly weak high notes at times. Overall, you’ll get a room-filling sound that will genuinely impress.
Room-sensing tech baked in means Apple HomePod will optimize the soundscape to the living space.
You’ll be able to use AirPlay to stream audio from your phone to HomePod without needing to pair like you would with a Bluetooth set-up. AirPlay delivers superior audio compression, too. Connectivity with AirPlay is robust, but you will need to hook up to a WiFi network.
Analyze how you intend to use your smart speaker. If music is your first love, Apple makes sure you’ll hear all your music at its very best.
2) Perfect for Apple Music Users
While Spotify might have 96 million subscribers to Apple Music’s 50 million, Apple Music still enjoys a heavy fan base.
The iteration of Siri built into HomePod can be sorely lacking in places. Fortunately, Siri comes fully to the fore with Apple Music.
Siri will gradually become accustomed to your tastes and can soon start presenting you with playlists based on artists and genres you listen to on a regular basis.
Beyond the basic controls, you can also tell Siri, “I don’t like this song” and your virtual butler will switch the music up accordingly.
Ask, “Hey Siri, play my station” and you’ll get a customized playlist based on the contents of your Apple Music library.
AirPlay yourself a podcast and listen to something stimulating as you get ready for your day.
Preferences are all carried neatly over from your Apple HomePod to iPhone.
If you’re already a committed Apple Music fan and iOS user, you’ll find Apple HomePod the perfect way to get the very most from the service.
3) Tight Integration with Apple Ecosystem
The way HomePod slides in with the Apple ecosystem is made clear right out the box.
All you need to do is plug in Apple HomePod then hold your iPhone close by. Follow a simple set-up process on the screen and you’re ready to roll.
Phone calls and text messages are both supported, which is not the case with Alexa.
One potential flashpoint to be aware of is that you can only sync Apple HomePod to a single iPhone. This is less than ideal in the average household. The problem is that anyone could read your text messages or potentially send a message to anyone in your contacts. Think closely about the environment where you’ll be placing your speaker and ask yourself whether you’re comfortable with this or not. You can disable access to messages if required.
In a sense, the situation is the same with Apple HomePod as with all smart tech. If you’re already fully enmeshed in the Apple world, syncing and cross-device use become so much easier when you have everything Apple. If you’re not already a convert, buckle up for an expensive but rewarding journey!
4) Hey Siri as an Alternative to Alexa or Google Assistant
All digital assistants come with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Alexa is arguably the queen of smart home control. If you’re looking for incisive search power, it’s got to be Google Assistant.
How about Siri, then?
If you find the iPhone version problematic, you might find that Siri baked into Apple HomePod is a more forgiving experience.
The mics on Apple HomePod are expressly designed to still pick up your voice, even if you have music playing. While this might seem obvious, it’s amazing how many smart speakers fail to make provision for this.
One issue you might face is activating Siri on multiple devices if you’re in a room filled with Apple lovers.
The breadth of commands is underwhelming and you won’t get support for third-party apps with Apple HomePod.
One of the most common attacks against Apple HomePod is to knock Hey Siri’s relatively limited functionality out the gate. Sure, Alexa and Google Assistant might have plenty more to offer, but Apple HomePod excels on the audio front where both Echo and Google Home lack in many models.
If you want comprehensive control over your streaming experience with voice commands and the ability to issue simple commands to HomeKit-enabled smart tech hands-free, Apple HomePod is ideal. If you’re looking for a broader, deeper digital assistant experience, you’re likely to be left wanting.
5) Privacy Comes Uppermost
Privacy comes hand-in-glove with home automation. We recently took a detailed look at some IoT security threats, along with some workable countermeasures.
Apple doesn’t adopt the same cavalier approach to monetizing your data as you can expect from Amazon and Google. Their business model is more fluid and you can remain quietly confident your data is as safe as it could be.
Sending or receiving personal messages can only be tied to a single iCloud account. When your phone is not connected to the WiFi network, messages won’t shoot through to Apple HomePod. This is a nice touch if you’re concerned about your kids or housemates getting into your inbox.
All requests to Siri are encrypted before they get to Apple. Requests are not tied to your iCloud account.
If you dislike the idea of inviting always-on devices from Amazon, Facebook, and Google into your home in the wake of so many privacy breaches, HomePod is a sea change. You can install a smart device without worrying about the manufacturer probing into your personal information.
6) Enjoy Basic Smart Home Control
It’s no secret that most people invest in a smart speaker at least in part due to the ability to control other compatible connected devices.
If you’re interested in Apple HomePod, this is quite likely not your primary motivation. We’ll assume, though, that you’ll want to enjoy at least basic control of other devices in your ecosystem.
While you might not be able to have items re-ordered from Amazon on your behalf or engage in a round of trivia questions, when the frippery is stripped away, Apple HomePod allows you to control other devices hands-free or in-app.
You won’t get the reach of control or interoperability that you’ll enjoy with Alexa or Google Assistant, but you’ll be able to get the job done.
And you can get that job done while listening to your favorite tunes in fine style rather than enduring a tinny whine.
Well, we hope you now have a clear of idea of whether Apple HomePod makes sense for you. If you’re an Apple Music convert and you’re looking for a primary listening device that delivers, HomePod is a smart bet. For music lovers already invested into Apple’s ecosystem, this is undoubtedly the neatest match.
If you don’t like the idea of ponying up this much in a sea of cheaper alternatives, you’re spoiled for choice with smart speakers, so roll with something that better suits your needs.
And don’t forget, bookmark our blog for all the latest smart home news.
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