The Apple HomePod is the first and only smart speaker from the company that packs in its own Siri smart assistant and some of the best sound quality on any smart speaker. But if you're not an Apple user you might as well stop reading right now.
Apple HomePod: What you need to know
- $299 price
- Siri and Apple Music
- Microphone filled smarts
The Apple HomePod is undeniably one of the most attractive smart speakers out there with that chunky circular and seamless design. But it carries lots inside too, with a host of smart sensors backed by heavy duty sound system hardware that can produce really decent sound.
All that is backed by Siri which means this is a device aimed at Apple users without any apologies for that. So you'll want to have Apple Music and other Apple devices, and an Apple account, to get the most out of this speaker.
The price is very steep, but for that you get a quality build on the product, as you'd expect from Apple. So smart is this bit of kit it even packs an accelerometer so it knows when it's been moved and will recalibrate audio to suit its new room position.
Apple HomePod: Design and build
- Six microphone array
- Subwoofer backed by seven tweeters
- Touch controls
- Fabric outer
It wouldn't be an Apple product if the design and build weren't standout - and they certainly are in the case of the HomePod. The entire outer is a material mesh which, Apple says, allows all the sounds to pass through without any distortion.
Up on top you've got the siri light show on what is a touch sensitive layer. This can be used to control volume, play, pause and skip tracks as well as mute or activate Siri. Out of the back is a single power cord which is made with a robust material outer for protection and a lovely finish. The circular foot at the bottom is silicone to ensure it doesn't damage whatever it is placed on, as this is heavy.
Despite its stout size at 6.8-inches tall and 5.6-inches across, the HomePod weighs in at a hefty 5.5lbs (2.5kg). But when it comes to audio devices the heavier is usually the better. That is the case here where that weight is accounted for by the inclusion of a high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, seven tweeters also each with custom amps, and a six microphone array.
The only major thing lacking is a 3.5mm audio out, not that you really need that with sound quality this decent. There is Bluetooth 5.0 so this is well future-proofed and can work with devices that aren't Apple only.
Apple HomePod: Features
- Siri controls
- AirPlay support
- Auto audio calibration
The stand-out smart feature on this speaker, that sets it apart from the competition and even puts it ahead of some dedicated speaker systems, is the auto calibration. Thanks to a seventh microphone, inside the speaker, backed by an A8 chip, the HomePod can hear itself and adapt audio calibration to suit. This means it will create the best calibration for the room it is in. Move it and the accelerometer will know so that it can recalibrate totally automatically.
This is an Apple device through and through so Android users stop reading now, you need an iPhone or iPad to set this up and it runs off Apple Music at its most basic. This means that Siri is very useful since it works in conjunction with your Apple Music tastes. Ask for something you'd like and it'll know what your tastes are so it can make a recommendation you should enjoy.
You can use the HomePod as a stereo pair, if you can afford two of the beasts. Or dot them about your home and use them as a multi-room system. This works well, as long as you're using Apple Music, of course.
Apple HomePod: Performance
- Superbly balanced audio for the room
- Excellent bass punch
- Siri isn't smart enough
Thanks to that calibration you can enjoy audio that's made for the room - in fact it uses the room to enhance it. So if placed in spacious surrounds it will distribute audio normally but when placed near a wall, say, it will fire some of the more ambient sounds to bounce them off that wall while projecting the more direct sounds, like vocals straight forward - creating a perfectly balanced sound when it reaches your ear.
The 360-degree sound is backed by bass weight that delivers drama to any audio and it also does this loud - very loud - without distortion.
While Siri is fine for fetching you tracks to enjoy it could be smarter, like Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa. For one thing Siri will answer on your phone before the speaker if that's in the room. Your limited to Apple Music for Siri, while you can cast from the likes of Spotify, expect to hear any alerts from your phone interrupt the music.
Siri requests require you to be very specific with what you ask for as it's just not that smart. For smart home controls it's the same case where you need to learn the specific statements to make. Also you're limited to smart devices that work with Apple HomePod only.
Should I buy the Apple HomePod?
If you've got $300 to spare, already use iPhone and Apple Music and don't mind the hit-and-miss Siri voice controls then you'll be hard pressed to find a better sounding smart speaker than the Apple HomePod.
If you're an Android user, or want to use Spotify as your main streamer, then the HomePod is going to present difficulties. If you want it to control the smart home, be sure everything you own works with Apple HomePod or that too could be an issue.
Apple HomePod: Verdict
The Apple HomePod is no doubt one of the best sounding smart speakers out there with some of the most intelligent auto calibration available. For Apple iPhone and Apple Music users this is just what you need in your home.
For everyone else - Spotify and Android users - this isn't for you as it's still too Apple closed system to be useful.