Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Comparison: Apple HomePod vs current competition

HomePod is Apple’s newest hardware, and the company’s big play to put Apple Music and Siri in the center of your living room. It’s an interesting product, one that seems to be making a simultaneous move against Sonos’ industry-leading, multi-room audio speakers and smart assistant hubs like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

The problem? HomePod is expensive. At $350, a single HomePod speaker costs more than many of its competitors in either product category. Smart assistant speakers aren’t even close — an Amazon Echo costs $180; the Echo View costs $230; Google Home sells for $129; and perhaps most significantly, an Echo Dot is just $50.

Apple’s argument is that the HomePod is worth the cost because it combines smart features and great sound, which is actually comparable to the current market.

Right now, the only music service that seems to be supported on HomePod directly is (unsurprisingly) Apple Music. And while it seems likely that you’ll be able to play music from another service to HomePod through the newly announced AirPlay 2 system, that’s still the weakest music support of any of the HomePod’s competitors, all of which support direct playback of services like Spotify, Pandora, and, in Sonos’ case, just about every music service ever made. It’s the same story on the other side of the divide, too — while HomePod supports Siri and HomeKit, it’s still as locked down as ever. Its abilities as a home assistant are limited to whatever Apple allows you to use it for, instead of the open platform that Amazon has made with Alexa Skills, or that Google would like to foster by allowing developers to build out things for Home.

That said, the HomePod is still months from release, and there’s undoubtably a lot we don’t know. Early reports of the sound quality are good, and there’s always the option for Apple to add support for other music services or Siri integrations down the line.

Given that the HomePod isn’t out until December, you’ve got some time to make a decision, and a list of specifications is still no match for actually comparing how each speaker sounds in person with the music you like. But if you’d like to start seeing how things look now, here’s how the various smart speakers and home assistants stack up against each other on paper:

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