Apple introduced consumers to the concept of a pocket personal assistant back in 2010, when Siri was integrated into the already-beloved iPhone. With the advent of personal assistants for the home on the rise, Apple has stepped up their game and provided us with an alternative to Amazon Echo and Google Home – the HomePod.
While the HomePod can do everything its competition can do for your smart home, the real game-changer here comes in the form of music. The HomePod features hi-fidelity speakers, giving it a real edge over the so-so speakers that the Amazon Echo and Google Home come with. What you’re getting with Apple’s version is phenomenal audio quality, smart home capabilities and the ability to access over 40 million songs using your Apple Music subscription.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at what Apple HomePod offers.
HomePod As An Assistant
Siri has been in our pockets for just over seven years at the time this article was written. We all know her advanced capabilities, and that she can, sometimes, carry on a conversation with us. With Apple HomeKit, she has the ability to control a wide variety of smart home products, such as smart lights, Eve wall outlets, Nest and other HomeKit-compatible products. Now, she can do this housed in an external speaker “pod,” just like Alexa and Google Home.
If you’re new to Siri (where have you been?), there’s a whole host of commands she can understand and execute. She’s so sophisticated, in fact, that most of us don’t even know the full extent to which she can make our lives easier. She can give you navigation, tell you what traffic is like on your commute, read your texts out loud, call emergency numbers, set timers, check the weather, schedule events on your calendar, calculate tips, solve math problems, search online for queries, and even find your friends (if you have the Find My Friends app).
That was just a taste of what Siri is capable of. CNET published an article called “The Complete List of Siri Commands” that details many of the commands you can use to get Siri to do stuff. Check that out if you’re interested in getting the most out of Apple’s personal assistant on your iPhone or Mac.
Now, imagine all of that in an external speaker that works in the same way as Amazon Echo or Google Home. You don’t need to press a button on your phone to activate her, or do anything other than say, “Hey, Siri!” You don’t even need your phone anywhere near you. So, if you’ve got HomeKit compatible products in your smart home, you’re in luck! She’ll control them all with a simple command.
It’s wireless, so you can access your HomePod remotely, from anywhere in the world with Wi-Fi. All you’d have to do is open your HomeKit app on your phone, iPod or iPad, and you’ve got access to your smart home.
HomePod’s Speaker Technology and Apple Music
The other big name personal assistants on the market have decent speakers but don’t provide a lot of bass, which is a huge bummer for millennials and others who dig that bass. Electronica, pop music, dream rock, rap, hip-hop, and pretty much all music that’s been made since 1969 requires that you have good speakers that can produce at least some bass for it to sound decent at all.
These other personal assistants – namely, the Echo and Home – do not have speakers that produce a lot of those lower range frequencies. It sounds like poo poos.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re decent, like I said – but once you’ve experienced hi-fidelity speakers, you won’t ever want to go back. The highs, mids and lows are expertly separated so that you can hear every instrument and element to the song rather than muddied sounds that pass for good music reproduction.
That’s due to the way hi-fidelity speakers are designed. There are pieces of the hardware that specialize in specific frequency ranges (high, mid, low), so that no one piece of hardware is trying to reproduce the whole range of sound. You wouldn’t want to wear seven hats at your job, and your speakers shouldn’t either.
Apple’s HomePod has a woofer for clean, deep bass and seven “beam-forming” tweeters to produce the higher frequencies. Beam-forming tweeters are aeroacoustic technology that directs sound waves at a particular angle or direction, which is how the HomePod is able to emit sound from all sides. With the HomePod, you’ll be listening to music the way it was meant to be listened to – that is, in the way the artist intended for you to hear when recording the piece.
The HomePod has automatic room-sensing technology. What does that even mean? The device can “sense” its position in a room and adjust the audio output for optimal sound quality, whether it is in the middle of the room, in the corner, or on a shelf.
If you have an Apple Music subscription, you can access over 40 million songs and listen to them with those hi-fidelity speakers. Awesome. The HomePod has six microphones so that you can interact with Siri from across the room, even when your music is blasting. The HomePod (and Apple Music) can learn your preferences by saying, “Hey Siri, I like this song” (you can do this with the Echo too). You can even ask her who plays guitar in the song you’re currently listening to. Now, that’s smart.
Availability and Pricing
The HomePod was just announced by Apple on Monday, June 5, 2017 and is scheduled to begin shipping in Australia, the UK and US, December of this year. The device will be available in two colors – white and space gray. The HomePod is compatible with iPhones starting at the 5s and above as long as they are running iOS 11. You can purchase the HomePod for $349 (US) when it becomes available.
There will be a mad rush amongst our reviewers here at Smarter Home Automation for who gets to review the HomePod when it’s released, so expect that review to come in 2018. I call dibs.
Drop a comment below or on our Facebook Page to let us know what you think of Apple’s HomePod. Some people really don’t care for the name (I think it’s cute, like it’s an iPod for the home) – what do you think?