The Apple HomePod no doubt is one of the most outstanding products released by the Apple franchise in the last few years. Now this device isn’t just amazing in every sense, it also serves to express the superb evolution of the tech giant since it began building top-notch devices.
Though the Apple HomePod comes with half of its designated name from the iPod brand, in 2018 it is assumed we still find ourselves asking the same question put forward by other Apple devices before it: Why pay a huge amount of money to acquire an Apple device that is not so different from its competition?
To prove to the world that this new Apple device is worth every dollar spent to acquire it, and that it’s different from other smart speakers on the market, the tech giant announced that the HomePod comes embedded with a feature that lets you easily search for music lyrics, a feature that lets you set timers and additional Siri languages (Spanish and Canadian French). And guess what? You can now also make calls directly from the HomePod.
In a whole lot of way, the HomePod joins the smart speaker trend late. The Apple franchise cares less about that fact though. Its smart execs working from Cupertino sit back and allow the rest of the industry create new products and features the public love, they take their time to evaluate these and then get to work on something far better and more stylish than the competition. Which is why their prices seem a little too steep.
This is exactly the case of the HomePod. No one can deny that the Apple HomePod comes with an impressive sound quality, it’s just that in a marketplace where Google and Amazon also have high quality smart speaker/voice assistant devices, it would be really difficult to stand out and claim the market if the HomePod lacks better features than the competition.
Enough said, here is our evaluation of the Apple smart speaker after thoroughly testing two HomePods.
Price and Availability of the Apple HomePod
Just as announced to the public, the price of the smart speaker is quite high and is in fact, one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market. It goes for a whooping $349 / £319 / AU$499.
Shipping of the speaker began on February 9, 2018 in just a few countries.
Apple HomePod Set-up
- Our test went on to show that the Apple HomePod is actually the easiest speaker to set up.
- It also went on to show the device is able to read its surrounding
The Sri-powered HomePod smart speaker comes with a function that saves you time and energy. Just as the Airpods, all you need do after purchasing this device is to bring your iPhone close to the unit and the magic happens.
Your handset informs the speaker of your Apple ID, Apple Music preferences, and fills in your Wi-Fi password. Now tell us, isn’t that cool? While testing the device, we discovered that the smart speaker will only work with an iPhone running on the last version of iOS. So if you’re having difficulties getting the speaker to work with your iPhone, try updating your phone’s IOS. There’s one thing to note here: the HomePod only works with an iPhone or iPad. For those who can’t afford to own an iPhone, they can only dream of using the speaker.
Its set-up process reveals one of the many appealing features of the smart speaker. When giving instruction to the device, the light at its top quickly switches to the radiant Siri logo, giving the device a classic look and feel.
When compared to other smart speakers as the Sonos One and Amazon Echo, the HomePod is better as it saves you the time and energy of moving your iPhone through the air in a bid to adjust sound levels.
As earlier stated, the HomePod reads its surrounding. The device comes with a feature called spatial awareness which lets it assesses its environment by listening to how the sound it produces bounces around an enclosed space. In the case where there’s a wall just behind the speaker, it will detect it and send parts of what is being played in that direction. If there’s no wall close enough to it, the HomePod will efficiently send out the sound in a 360-degree space. It would be better if the speaker is placed against a wall though as it produces a better sound from there.
Following proper set up of the device, you can leave the house with your iPhone and family member or friends sharing the same crib with you would have no problem using the speaker. If you don’t want those with access to the device meddling with your music preference and listening history, you can as well turn off personal requests.
Apple HomePod Design
- It comes with a heavy feel
- It comes with a downplayed design
The HomePod smart speaker might look little, but this isn’t a light weight device. So if you wish to hold or lift it, you’ll be needing both hands. The device comes with a 172mm (6.8-inch) high frame and weighs no less than 2.5kg of weight.
Apple HomePod comes with such heavy weight owing to the many speakers it contains within. In there, you have a woofer and seven tweeters all of which come with their separate amplifiers. There are also six Sri-ready microphones in there to help pick up your voice when giving out instructions to Siri.
Apart from the two-prong power cord that comes with this device, there are no other wires on the HomePod. Apple claims the reason for this is to make the speaker as safe for use anywhere. From bathroom to garage and in rooms, the speaker can be used anywhere. There is no other physical connectivity on the device, not even an aux-in port for the sake of connecting with other devices or a record player. Which isn’t too good a thing.
Apple focused on making the HomePod a smart speaker wrapped up in fabric mesh for the sake of protecting the speaker while at the same time emitting a sound so good. Merely looking at the speaker you’d think it’s crap as it looks really unremarkable in appearance. The only part not covered by mesh is the very top of the speaker where a round, reflective disc is to be found.
From this reflective disc, a radiant light glows when Siri listens and processes a command. Every time you say “Hey Siri,” the Siri graphics gets to appear on the touch sensitive display, to let you know it clearly heard you and is ready to take your next command. Around the same spot, you’ll find a volume control button for adjusting sounds. For a speaker with its price tag, one would expect it to come with splendid design, but the HomePod doesn’t. It looks way too simple.
Those who wish to own this speaker should note that if left on a certain surface for long, it leaves a white ring mark. Although Apple claims the mark it leaves should fade off after a few days, some of those who’ve made use of the speaker state otherwise. So when making use of the speaker, it is best to place it on a surface where if it at all it leaves a permanent marker, won’t be big deal.
During our test, we placed the speaker on a wooden surface. A cheap wood actually. On taking the speaker off the surface, we didn’t notice any sort of staining. So we guess it works well with that sort of surface.
The HomePod comes with an Apple A8 chip processor made for iPhone 6. You might think that’s too old a processor for the device, but consider that this processor was initially made to power the entire system of an iPhone from 2015. Now that’s a super cool stuff.
Apple HomePod Audio Performance
- Grand audio performance
- Sadly no aux input or Bluetooth streaming
The HomePod produces what we like to term “big sound.” Truth is, we expected a poorer sound from a speaker this compact, but the HomePod surpassed all our expectations. The quality of sounded produced by this device is premium and top-notch. It is sure to blow you away.
On testing the speaker, we noticed how the sound it produced easily fills up a room in no time. It also beautifully separates the sound in every music piece, allowing you to hear every instrument, voicing and melody in a song. As earlier mentioned, it would be best to place the speaker against a wall.
Every one of us listens to music everyday. Whether through a mediocre headphone/earpiece, car stereo, home radio or the television. Listening to music through the HomePod will definitely bring a new feel to your favorite songs, as you get to hear those incredible subtle sounds you weren’t able to perceive because the medium through which you listened to music in the past was poor.
The quality of bass the speaker produces is strong and stable. During our testing, we found out that the speaker does pretty well with whatever type of music thrown its way. Now that’s one quality you can’t find in lots of the speakers currently on the market. While listening to Hip-hop and electronica, we noticed the sound it emitted had a lot of clarity. It was heaven indeed. The sound was that marvelous.
What’s even more impressive about using the HomePod is its fusion. You’re able to listen to every sound employed to create a melodious music piece and at the same time clearly hear the vocals of the song. The HomePod’s uniform sound across different genres of music is one key feature that sets it apart from its main competition the Sonos One and the Google Home Max.
The HomePod is the sort of speaker that brings a song to life. As earlier mentioned, the smart speaker comes embedded with six microphones that helps adjust the equalizer depending on how adjacent it is to a wall, making its sound stay relatively constant during the time it is being used.
The HomePod isn’t a big speaker in size, so don’t expect it to be as overly loud as some other speakers on the market. One thing you can expect from this device for sure is stellar sound.
The HomePod comes with an audio quality so powerful that the one criticism we can comfortably throw at the smart speaker is the way of communicating with it. In order to give out commands to this device, one is expected to call out “Hey Siri.”
In the case where you are in a room with other people talking, you’ll need to plead with them to hush for a second when giving a command or the speaker will pick up their words and play songs in relation to the word spoken by random individuals. It really would be better if one’s intention could be registered without inputting a key phrase.
When compared to the Sonos and the new Amazon Echo, the HomePod surpasses the other products in every sense. It is easy to use and has a great set-up. And most importantly, the sound from the Apple device’s speaker is super unique. Making use of the speaker kind of gets you feeling like you’re hearing musical sounds from heaven. No kidding.
The Sonos One is a good smart speaker, but it isn’t as great as the HomePod in terms of audio performance. If there is one way to describe the quality of sound produced by the Sonos One, it would be that it is narrower. Unlike the Apple HomePod that sends its sound out in different directions. Not saying the Sonos One produces a terrible sound, all we’re trying to make clear to you is that it doesn’t produce as much power and depth as the HomePod.
The Amazon Echo another good smart speaker on the market pales in comparison to both the HomePod and the Sonos One. Most people may prefer it for its affordability and good sound, but regardless of how the impressive the quality of its sound, it doesn’t get close that of the HomePod.
It’s time to touch the aspect of how listening to music on the HomePod works. In order to listen to anything on this smart speaker, you’ll need to subscribe to Apple music. Even if all you wish to do is stream music online from your iPhone device, you’ll need to use an airplay which also requires subscription to Apple music. There’s just no other way around it.
The HomePod doesn’t support Bluetooth streaming. In the case where all you wish to do is play music from an Apple device using WiFi there’s going to be no problem. But for those who wish to play music from a device using Bluetooth as is done with most wireless speakers, it just isn’t going to work.
The HomePod also doesn’t come with an aux input which means if you’re the type of person who prefers playing music from a Vinyl or CD, this speaker from Apple isn’t for you.
The HomePod is a smart speaker meaning it has to be connected to a WiFi before it can work. In fact, unlike the Google Home Max which works with any modern smartphone or OS, you’ll need to have the HomePod connected to a device running on IOS 8 or higher in order to set it up. So for all Android users who wish to enjoy the amazing sound this speaker produces, y’all will need to get an Apple device first.
Truth is, this smart speaker isn’t for everyone. First of all Apple makes sure the speaker works with only Apple devices; it ensures the speaker comes with no aux input or Bluetooth streaming functionality, and they also ensure only those with existing Apple music subscription can make use of the speaker. To keep listening to music on the speaker, you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription of $10 / €10 on Apple music. Reason why we said the speaker isn’t for everyone.
You don’t need an app to get the HomePod up and running, the smart speaker resides in the Home app for IOS. Following configuration of the speaker, it appears as one of the accessories in your phone’s list of Homekit devices.
For those who wish to get a stereo type of sound from the HomePod, that can now be done by connecting two HomePods, all thanks to AirPlay 2. You can even now add multiple speakers from different brands to spread out your sound to them as well.
Speakers of other brands compatible with the HomePod includes:
- the Sonos One and Sonos Play:5 speakers
- Sonos Beam
- Sonos Playbase
- speakers from Bang & Olufsen, Libratone and Naim.
During our testing we tried connecting the HomePod to an Apple TV to check out how it would sound and if it would work just fine. The sound the speaker produced when connected to the Apple TV was great, the only downside being we had to go to the settings to inform the TV to release its sound through the speaker every time.
If you ask us, we would say the Home Pod is quite an amazing product from Apple. In fact, it is one of the best sounding smart speakers we’ve made use of. It’s just that the device is made for just a selected few – Apple users. It really would have been great if the speaker could work on every smartphone and OS; had a Bluetooth streaming functionality and came with an aux input.