After Amazon Echo and Google Home, Apple has joined the smart speaker’s race, with its new product, Apple HomePod. Designed specifically for rich sound quality, it is an excellent speaker, but not so great addition as a smart home hub. The wireless smart speaker does an excellent job of providing a all-round high-fidelity audio, but Siri lacks with terms of voice-assistant, in comparison to Alexa or Google Assitant and is very limited to Apple products.
Released on February 9th, 2018 for the US, UK, and Australia, Apple Homepod is 6.8in tall, and 5.6in. wide, with a cylindrical shape, and weighs 2.5kg, which is bulkier than the other competitions in the market. The speaker is covered with soft mesh fabric cover, and the top has a glossy black illuminating touch display, which shows Siri as a ball of color when it is taking commands, and +/- button, while playing music. It comes in two variants: Space Gray and White. The speaker has a high excursion woofer with a custom amplifier on the top, and seven tweeners at the base of the unit, pointing slightly upwards, to avoid reflection from the base, The device is put on. This seven tweeners placed around the speaker, acts as a virtual array of soundbeams, to create 3 beams, one for direct sound, other two to reflect ambient noises. This process is called beamforming and is patented by Apple itself. There are 6 microphones placed above tweeners, covering the whole girth of the HomePod, to pick sound from all the corners in the room, whereas the 7th inside microphone is used to adjust the woofer for bass, according to the room architecture. The whole system is powered by Apple’s A8 processor chip, which analyzes the acoustics of the room via spatial awareness, and adjusts bass and treble based on speakers’ location, and the song played, to give the best sound quality possible while providing noise cancellation.
Installation of Apple HomePod is fairly easy and straightforward, but you need an iPhone or Ipad for that, with iOS 11.25+. Just place the phone near the speaker, and it will detect your Apple ID, your personal music library, and all the wifi-networks with passwords, one step and all is done. HomePod only supports Apple Music and iTunes Match, so you need to be a subscriber to it, to play music, other than your music library. There is no support for Spotify, or Tidal or Google Play Music or any other music platforms, making it quite restrictive, in terms of platform variety.
Apple Homepod speaker can connect to other HomePod speakers to form a stereo pair, or any Airplay-enabled speakers(SONOS speakers) using Airplay 2, that lets you play the same song in every speaker, providing a much better multiroom audio and unparalleled stereo experience, with a deeper bass extension for your Home. You can control all the speakers using voice, with the help of Siri. Siri learns from your music preferences and suggests you songs, you might like. you can also listen to Apple Podcasts and Beats 1 Live Radio. It does not support Bluetooth streaming.
Even while playing loud music, you can voice activate Siri, due to its excellent noise-cancellation mechanism, and lets you perform set of clerical tasks, like setting up a reminder, asking for location or weather forecast, news report, send or receive texts. Siri has not yet reached the standard of Alexa and Google-assistant, but it is working its way up, to give adequate interactions, if not all.
Apple HomePod supports Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO, and direct guest access, which allows peer-to-peer Airplay though your iPhone(iOS 8+) or Mac. HomePod works as a smart hub for Apple HomeKit but doesn’t support any non-HomeKit compatible devices like Nest Thermostat, August smart lock, or Ecobee switch+, which is a big letdown, unless you are ready to make your home Apple-centric.
Apple HomPod is priced at $349, in US/UK/Australia, and will be available to other countries, by the end of this year. If your priority is outstanding sound quality, and don’t mind paying Apple Music subscription per month, or its limitation to only Apple products, then it is the best fit for you.
Buy Apple HomePod here.