Apple is good with sound, with the impressive sound quality of the MacBook Pro and iPhone X as proof. Now, I have to admit that I am a bit of an Apple fan, but I promise that with this review I will be honest and judge this smart speaker like any other product. So with the release of their first smart speaker, I’m really excited to see what they have in stock for us!
Apple is really late in the smart speaker industry. Really late. It feels like they grabbed their pencils, sketched out a design and printed it out. And the problem with that is they might forget some small but crucial features along the way, which we will explore soon. But they made it, and we can’t criticise them for that.
When Apple first announced the HomePod, they said that they wanted a mix of good sound quality, mixed with a smart AI. Sonos’s latest speaker has Alexa built in which is a step towards what Apple is attempting to create and is probably their biggest contestant. However, we also have the Google Home in the “smart speaker party” as well as Amazon’s Echo.
Lets start with the design, because man does the Apple HomePod stand out! It’s mesh fabric gives it some sort of “Living Room feel” and I would say it is easily the best looking smart speaker out of all the others. The Apple HomePod is 172mm high and 142mm wide, so about the height of an iPhone X, which is pretty small and in my opinion a perfect size. At the top of the HomePod, a touchscreen is found for turning up or down the volume and for glowing the beautiful Siri animation. And who knows, maybe a future update will allow this touchscreen to do even more! And lastly, the HomePod comes in two colours; Black and White.
Now let’s go to the more technical side of the design. So, the HomePod has one cable attached to the bottom of the speaker that can not be removed, meaning that the HomePod can not be used as a portable speaker. The cable is made of a good fabric which is very resistant, unlike Apple’s iPhone chargers. But apart from that cable, there are no slots for adding a subwoofer or anything else (As you will find out, the speaker might not even need a subwoofer!).
So on that note, let’s move on to sound quality. A question you all might be wondering is how the HomePod “sings” in this party of smart speakers? Well, I am glad to say that it does a brilliant job, and is the best standalone speaker that I have heard. This may be because of the new technology that Apple calls “spatial awareness” which basically allows the HomePod to detect objects near it and project sound according to those objects. The HomePod also has a A8 chip, yes the same chip in your iPhone, and combined with a bass and seven tweeters inside, and you genuinely have a speaker you just want to listen to. The bass is deep and rich, and it really does feel like you have a subwoofer secretly hidden away from the 7inch HomePod. The vocals are clear and the treble is crisp.
And finally, the “techy” part of the review. The HomePod, being an Apple product, is only really going to work best with Apple devices. In fact, you need a Apple product to set it up and use it, as the speaker will not operate with another companies device. And if you are a iPhone user, then that’s great! Well, great until the next sentence because we also have to take into note the music you can play on the HomePod. You see Apple, those arrogant bastards, decided that you can only play music from Apple Music. Ok, that middle bit might have been harsh. But if you are subscribed to the monthly payment of Apple Music, then that’s great! However if you haven’t because you are using Spotify, tough luck is what Apple is shoving into our faces.
But there are some advantages when using Apple Music. For an example, you can ask the HomePod to play something Funky and it will be your own personal DJ. You can also ask it to do stuff like make an event in your calendar, call someone in your contacts and more. It’s also really simple to setup; you take out your iPhone, click connect on the HomePod, go through some small steps on your phone and its setup. It’s a really relieving process that I don’t think a lot of other products incorporate. But back to Siri. You see Siri, being Siri, isn’t really the most intelligent of AI. And compared to something like the Google Home or the Amazon Echo, the HomePod is outmatched. And although it has some HomeKit functionality, it’s nothing compared to what else is on the market. However, the list of new commands is growing and luckily this flaw may not be a flaw in the coming years thanks to software updates.
Apple said themselves that for them, sound quality comes first and AI comes second and I really think that the HomePod proves that. It’s a beautiful speaker with no functionality for HIFI speakers or subwoofers that really only works for Apple users. But it has superb sound quality, probably the best in the market for Smart Speakers, and has some nifty Siri commands in there that works well with HomeKit. I’d say that if your not an Apple user, or you want a lot more AI functionality in your Speaker, then the HomePod might not be the way to go. But if your an all out Apple fan, and you love sound quality with good bass, then the HomePod might be the product for you!