Apple HomePod: how to preorder and buy Apple's first smart speaker

Otis Hoffman
January 27, 2018

A smart speaker is a dumb speaker if you have to use your phone and AirPlay 2 to stream music to it with Spotify. It also has seven tweeters and a high excursion woofer. As Google looks to add Google Assistant to screens and Amazon takes over anything with a microphone Siri is coming to a smart speaker, but you need a $120 a year subscription to get the full value out of the HomePod.

At $349, the HomePod is one of the more expensive smart speakers; only the $399 Google Home Max costs more.

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Apple's HomePod will only work with Apple services to begin with, meaning you can only listen to Apple Music on your Apple HomePod, and use Apple's voice assistant Siri. Currently, the Apple Store app makes no mention of the speaker, but we do expect it to appear once the preorder floodgates open. And herein lies another flaw: for now you will have to use an Apple Music account if you want to use Siri as a control. Considering that the Amazon Echo can be purchased for under $100, one might wonder why anyone would choose to buy the HomePod, but Apple is obviously marketing its speaker as a serious musical device. "It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, attractive design that is so much fun to use".

Apple fans are a seriously dedicated bunch who want the latest Apple gear on the first day it's available.

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For Apple Music users, this is fantastic. However, Amazon's Echo devices and the Google Home device play music, although they may not possess the impressive acoustics of the Apple HomePod. While that's great when it comes to such features as Handoff - which lets you answer calls from your iPhone on your MacBook - it puts Apple at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to music. It is smart, powered by Siri and capable of intelligently adjusting its output to its surroundings.

Similarly, it is suggested that the Apple Siri System is not quite as flexible as the other two is generally believed that Siri isn't quite as good at responding to enquiries as the other two systems, nor is it quite as able to manipulate smart home devices. Three times in our short demo Siri failed to understand what was being asked of it. Still, HomePod seems to have a few obvious limitations: its marriage to Apple Music, its limited functionality, and its steep price. We don't know yet how it will stack up to the HomePod, quality-wise, but if price is the consideration, then this is a goo deal.

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