How the Apple HomePod Compares to the Amazon Echo and Google Home

How the Apple HomePod Compares to the Amazon Echo and Google Home

Apple's HomePod is the company's latest new gadget, packing a smart assistant, smart home hub, and multi-room audio speaker inside an overpriced, rounded package.

"It will reinvent home audio", Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said during the conference.

When it comes out in December, the HomePod will perform tasks that are comparable to what Siri now does, such as send messages, control smart home devices and get weather and news updates.

HomePod has been optimised to work with Apple Music, however it does also house AirPlay 2 technology, so in theory other streaming services could be used to play music through it. In a recent interview, Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of global marketing, said the HomePod will provide better sound quality than Amazon's Echo and more interactive capabilities than Sonos' line of wireless speakers.

HomePod, infused with machine smarts by Siri digital assistant, will be priced at US$349 when it begins shipping in December in the United States, Australia and Britain.

Apple, however, doesn't want the HomePod to just be a speaker, but rather a computer for the whole home. But while Apple stayed focused on upgrading its flagship product, the iPhone, through the years, other competitors developed their own voice-activated assistants. For those concerned about security, Apple says all communications with the HomePod will be encrypted. (Many reviewers have suggested that the current incarnation of Apple's assistant already trails competitors in key respects.) "This is the start of the AI wars", he said.

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Recode previously reported that Amazon employees expect to see the app show up on Apple TV in the third quarter of this year. And the result is quite evident; a comparison of the audio qualities of HomePod and Amazon Echo will definitely bring out some clear differences, with the former topping the chart in most of the charts. That's a bold claim given that this is Apple's first major foray into the speaker market.

Although the HomePod looks a lot like several competing products from Amazon and Sonos, the company insists it's really quite unique.

"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

Measuring just under seven inches tall and featuring rounded mesh covering, the speaker includes an Apple-designed woofer that allows the volume to be turned up without distortion, as well as seven beam-forming tweeters at the base that offer directional control.

Regardless of whether consumers care enough about audio quality, there are enough Apple fans who are likely hungry for a product like this as rivals Amazon and Google have come out ahead. Google sells Home for US$180, promoting the smart speakers with discounts. The home speaker market on the other hand is well defined. There's no way Apple would prevent users from streaming their own tunes to the HomePod, but they did get rid of Magsafe on their MacBooks, so anything is possible. They can call. I hope there is a day when that happens.

Apple on Monday fired a shot over Amazon's smart home bow, but the e-commerce giant might not think it matters. "Munster, considered one of the top Apple watchers, added, "[It] is going to change how we interact and it is eventually going to replace the smartphone.

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