Apple’s pitch for its new HomePod speaker isn’t just that it’s a screen-free computer with Siri built in, but also a top-notch home audio device.
In fact, it’s audio that the company has been focusing on instead of all that extra Siri stuff. According to Apple, HomePod is a great listening experience first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.
During Monday’s WWDC keynote, Apple spent more time playing up the speaker’s music and audio capabilities and barely mentioned that it’s a new way to experience Siri. (That would draw too many comparisons to the Amazon Echo, a device that defined a whole new gadget category, after all.)
So, if audio is so important to the HomePod — and will justify that whopping $349 price tag — how does it really sound?
I got to listen to the HomePod’s audio capabilities Monday and compare it to a nearby Sonos Play 3 speaker and Amazon Echo. I’m no audio expert, so I won’t even pretend I can go into all the reasons why the HomePod sounds so good. But I did notice the HomePod was able fill a large room very well and sounded great no matter what angle I was listening from, which Apple says is possible because the HomePod is smart enough to intelligently tune itself and balance the audio to match any room or position you put it in. It sounded even better when playing in stereo while synced with another HomePod.
Still, it was tough to evaluate the HomePod on its own, and I didn’t realize just how good it sounded until I heard a nearby Sonos 3 speaker playing the same songs. The Sonos sounded OK, but the sound wasn’t nearly as rich as the HomePod.
And the Amazon Echo?
Compared to the HomePod, the Echo sounded like someone was singing through a tin can a mile away. It isn’t even in the same league as the HomePod or Sonos.
That seems to be Apple’s key differentiator. The HomePod may be more expensive and can’t do as much as the Echo, but when it comes to sound quality, HomePod blows the Echo away.
But it’s also not the complete story for the HomePod. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the device. What kind of third-party support will there be for Siri? What’s up with that circular screen at the top? (It appears to be a touchscreen with volume controls and a Siri animation.) Will it work with other music services like Spotify? Apple isn’t saying, and it’s probably going to stay that way until we get closer to HomePod’s launch in December.
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