Apple just introduced the HomePod. Its Apple’s idea of a “better mousetrap” than Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home smart speakers. You can buy an Amazon Alexa Echo Dot for $39.95. An Apple HomePod is $349.00.
All three devices are SmartSpeakers (a new buzzword). They do the same thing – provide music through their speaker systems and are digital assistants – like asking them, “What’s the weather like outside right now?” Or, “What are the Olympic standings right now?”
To “hear” the difference an additional $310 gets you, you need to listen to the HomePod. Apple engineers spent over 7 years developing the HomePod and the result is exceptional sound. Music (and voice) is clear, crisp, not muddled or dampened. It almost seems that you can hear or sense the different layers present in the most well-recorded music. The HomePod has seven tweeters, a 4″ sub-woofer, and 6 microphones – that can pick up a whispered “Hey Siri” command from across a room – even with rock music turned up high.
In the next few months, Apple will release a software update for IOS devices that will enhance AirPlay to AirPlay 2. This software will allow multiple devices to play to multiple speakers with variable volume levels and additionally play your favorite music throughout the house or just in specific rooms. Apple will license AirPlay 2 to other speaker and headphone makers.
Now for the elephant in the room – Siri. The good news is that Siri works well, especially with music commands, questions, and information about the song, album, track, and even “Siri, who is playing drums on this track?” type questions. As mentioned above having 6 microphones and her ability to pick your voice – even softly – or at a distance is really amazing. Of course, she knows the answers to millions of questions and dozens of commands. Home automation electronics like door locks, thermostats, lighting – all work with Siri spoken commands if the device supports Apple HomeKit software.
HomePod works best if you are an Apple “person.” If you have an iPhone, or iPad, or Apple TV you are going to have no problems with setup and day-to-day use. To select and listen to music you need to have a subscription to Apple Music.
As always Apple will provide over-the-air software updates that increase the value of HomePod and add new features that will make us drool.