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Apple's HomePod Is Not The Smartest Of The Smart Speakers

10 February 2018

The much anticipated Apple HomePod is finally here.

Early reviewers have often disclaimed their own audio expertise, but have generally opined that the $349 HomePod sounds decidedly superior to the $80 Amazon Echo, similar to or a little better than the $199 Sonos One, and at least a little better than the $399 Google Home Max.

However, Tien points out three main challenges for HomePod that may influence its product acceptance in existing market.

She notes that the HomePod is unable to read out calendar appointments or make phone calls via voice command, and pointed out that it does not work with ubiquitous apps like Uber and Venmo.

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Unlike in the Alexa app, meanwhile, there's no log of what Siri heard and what her response was. "It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, lovely design that is so much fun to use".

HomePod is a new wireless speaker with built-in Siri controls by Apple. The question is: will hardcore music fans embrace voice control the way more casual fans have? Sonos is now offering a truly stereo pair of Sonos One speakers for $349 to directly challenge the HomePod at the same price point. One, a home speaker that Apple hopes will "reinvent home music" and 2, an intelligent home assistant to help perform tasks such as playing music, reading the news, sending and receiving iMessages, setting reminders, providing answers to general questions, checking the weather and more. An Apple spokesperson promised us that the functions will be "coming this year in a free software update".

Apple Music has millions of artists and even more tracks, but if it's the spoken word you're interested in, HomePod has you covered there, too. And it's an acknowledgement that, like it or not, there are going to be multiple parties in this space.

Apart from the launch markets, Apple has revealed plans to bring the smart speaker to France and Germany this spring. Alexa and Google can draw upon lots of information even before you add third-party skills; Siri on HomePod can get stumped by requests an iPhone can handle. But if you've got a particular playlist in Spotify you want to play on your HomePod, you can play it - you'll just need to do it from your iOS device.

Apple's HomePod Is Not The Smartest Of The Smart Speakers