Apple HomePod first listen: not enough punch for the price

The Home Pod costs $349 and opens for pre-order on January 26Apple

In fact, an ENERGY STAR certified LED household light bulb uses more energy than the HomePod does during music playback.

As with the AirPods, all you have to do is hold an iOS device (running the latest version, of course) up to the HomePod.

Coinciding with news of the deal, Sonos published a blog post called Why Open Matters, in which it explains the benefits of its speakers working with a wide range of music streaming services, including those from Spotify, Amazon, Google - and Apple. At £319, it's three times more expensive than an Echo, and over 50% as costly as a Sonos One.

Apple's HomePod will only work with Apple services to begin with, meaning you can only listen to Apple Music on your Apple HomePod, and use Apple's voice assistant Siri. With the Apple device, there are now no cheaper options.

After only one hour of seeing HomePod in action, I can't definitively say whether it's worth buying. The HomePod, however, will only support Apple Music.

In our comparison of Alexa vs. Google Home vs. Siri, Apple's assistant came in last. Whereas with Sonos' speakers you could have each Sonos One play either different music or the same thing synchronized to two rooms - or more, for that matter, if you have multiple Sonos speakers - right now the same can't be said for HomePod.

If you love Apple Music, live fully inside the Apple ecosystem and want a smart speaker reading your text messages to you, this might be for you. Apple has designed the new HomePod from top to bottom, the main priority being the audio part. And as expected, industry watchers are now questioning whether the new device can compete with the market leader, Amazon's Echo.

Apple will lead you to believe that if they make it, they will come (and buy it).




The final piece of the HomePod puzzle is its smart home functionality.

A brace of HomePods doesn't sound quite as expansive as a good pair of floorstanding loudspeakers, but then they're only seven inches tall.

The installed base of smart speakers grew by 18 million units in the December quarter, CIRP reported.

While Apple positions the HomePod as a music-first device, Amazon and Google have already set the bar - and continue to raise it - when it comes to setting expectations about what a smart speaker can do.

Six built-in microphones mean that Siri can hear your commands from across the room even while music is playing - and this was indeed the case in our demo. "We think they will be blown away by the audio quality", according to Philip Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing.

What's more likely is that Siri will get better over time. Ironically the same price of the Apple Homepod that went up for pre-order today.

Until we're able to test it further, there's no way to know whether HomePod's fantastic sound quality outweighs the downsides.

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