The HomePod has an impressive bass and a rich sound that
comfortably fills a room without causing distortion. During
setup, it automatically analyzes the space it’s in and customizes its audio to take advantage of the acoustics in the room.
Before the HomePod came out, many websites claimed that
the audio was comparable to a high-end audio system worth
thousands of dollars. I have found the sound quality of the
HomePod to be good but not great. It certainly is not comparable to a high-end audio system. While the speaker’s bass is
very impressive for such a small speaker, the mid-range is a
little muddled and the high notes are underemphasized, which
leaves guitar and vocals sounding a little muddy. Overall, it had
comparable sound quality to other mid-level speakers such
as the Libratone Zipp and Sonos One, both of which retail for
around $200 and have Amazon Alexa built in.
The HomePod uses Apple’s AirPlay system
to stream audio to your phone over Wi-Fi.
AirPlay has higher quality audio compression
than Bluetooth and you don’t have to pair the
speaker with your phone like you do with Bluetooth. When testing AirPlay with other speakers in the past, I’ve experienced frequent connectivity issues that caused the audio to cut
out periodically. The HomePod, however, has
been very consistent. A big downside is that,
unlike with Bluetooth, AirPlay will not work
unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
USING HEY SIRI
I often struggle when using Siri on my
iPhone. Half the time my phone doesn’t wake
up when I say, “Hey, Siri.” And when it does, it
frequently mishears my request. Because of this, I was a little
concerned about how the HomePod would perform. I’ve been
pleasantly surprised though by how well the speaker handles
commands. The microphones are designed to pick up your
commands even while the speaker is in use. I’ve found that
Siri works pretty reliably, and there are far fewer misunder-
standings than when I use it on my iPhone. The only problem
I occasionally encounter is that I have so many Apple devices
in my room that when I summon Siri, the wrong device is
sometimes activated. Apple has said that multiple devices in
a room communicate with each other when you make a com-
mand in order to figure out which one should be activated. For
the most part Apple defaults to the HomePod, but every once
in a while, my iPhone will answer instead.
Another downside of the HomePod is that it doesn’t support third-party apps yet and has a limited number of commands it responds to. Most of its commands are for Apple
Music, which is, of course, only helpful if you are an Apple
Music subscriber. I am a Spotify subscriber, so all of the Apple
Music functionality is of very little use to me.
The biggest advantage the HomePod has over the competition is Apple’s ability to tightly integrate the smart speaker
with the rest of its ecosystem. This advantage is made apparent right out of the box. To set up the HomePod, you simply
plug it in and hold your iPhone nearby. A prompt will pop up
on your iPhone walking you through a simple setup process.
Apple also has the ability to support phone calls and text messages, something that Alexa does not support for iPhones.
The integration is particularly helpful for Apple Music subscribers, who have a myriad of voice commands available to them.
Surprisingly, Apple did not take advantage of the integration
as much as it could have. Many of Apple’s built-in apps are not
yet supported by the HomePod. The most glaring omission
to me is the Calendar app. I schedule appointments via Siri
on my phone all the time and would’ve loved to be able to
use the HomePod for that. I also would have enjoyed having
the HomePod read me my schedule for the day. While it does
support the Podcasts app, I didn’t find it to work very well.
5 OF MY FAVORITE HOMEPOD COMMANDS
Weather: It’s surprisingly convenient to have Siri read
the weather to me as I get ready in the morning.
Smart Home Management: I have two space heaters plugged into smart plugs. I’m consistently yelling
at my HomePod to “Turn on the bathroom heater.”
Audio Management: It’s really nice to be able to
tell Siri to rewind thirty seconds, adjust the volume,
or let me know what song I’m listening to (which works
even when I’m streaming Spotify).
The News: The HomePod can play you a news
snippet from several publishers, including NPR,
The Washington Post, and Fox News.
Unit Conversion, Timers, and Alarms: I keep my
HomePod in my room, so I don’t use this functionality as much as if it were in my kitchen, but I will
occasionally have my HomePod convert Fahrenheit to
Celsius, tell me the time in a different country, or set a
timer or alarm.
“THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGE THE
HOMEPOD HAS OVER THE
COMPETITION IS APPLE’S
ABILITY TO TIGHTLY INTEGRATE
THE SMART SPEAKER WITH THE
REST OF ITS ECOSYSTEM.”