In 2017, Apple launched the HomePod, its first attempt at high-end audio and a smart speaker aimed at the Amazon Echo and Google Home. But the speaker struggled to make headway in the crowded market, capturing only a small fraction of the smart speakers market, according to analytics company Gartner.
It didn’t take long for Apple to cut back on the HomePod, slashing its price by nearly a third in late 2018. That was just before Google launched the Google Home Max, which offered similar functionality and a far better audio experience for $399.
At its heart, the HomePod was a loudspeaker, designed to play music and stream audio via Siri. The device has a single upward-firing shock dampened sub cone, which Apple says transmits only enough movement to prevent unwanted vibration when a user places the speaker on a flat surface.
I didn’t get a chance to review the original HomePod, but I’ve heard from many users who love it. They describe it as a powerful and versatile speaker that delivers an immersive audio experience, delivering deep soundstages, rich vocals, and accurate instrumentation.
However, it has a few flaws that can put off some consumers. Firstly, it’s not as smart as the Alexa and Google Home devices it competes with, and it’s not capable of handling other voice commands that don’t originate from an Apple product.
For example, you can’t send text messages through Apple’s smart assistant Siri, and it’s not possible to play songs from Spotify or other third-party services. This means that you’ll have to send them from your phone, or use Apple Music’s iMessage feature.
This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s an aspect of the HomePod that frustrates some people. It’s also one of the reasons why Apple has relaunched the HomePod Mini, which offers a lot of the same functionality for only $99.
If you’re an Apple Music subscriber and you’re looking for a new speaker to add to your home, the HomePod is worth checking out. It’s a great sounding device, and it’s easy to connect to your iPhone through AirPlay to play music or podcasts.
In addition, the speaker has a number of useful smart features that help with your home automation and security needs, including support for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, a temperature and humidity sensor, and more. It also works well with apps like Apple Maps and HomePod’s new Intercom feature, which allows a user to send and receive messages in the background.
I was able to set up the HomePod in my office, home, and apartment. The speaker was able to recognize when it’s in a new location and automatically connect to my network.
It also has a number of helpful audio tools, such as Spatial Audio and the ability to listen to multiple Apple Music tracks at once. The latter is a feature that’s not available on most other smart speakers.
Compared to other smart speakers, the HomePod’s sound quality is quite good, with deep soundstages and precise directional control. It’s definitely a step up from Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, and it sounds much more vibrant and punchy than other speakers.