The Apple HomePod is not only one of the best-sounding smart speakers we tested, it’s also one of the best-designed. Unfortunately, it’s expensive and requires other Apple mobile devices to be near you while you interact with Siri. The HomePod works with HomeKit, an extension of the Home app that acts as a control surface for smart home products. The Apple HomeKit is compatible with a wide range of popular smart-home devices, and allows you to customize scenes that interact with multiple devices simultaneously. If you already own iPhones and iPads, and are interested in outfitting your home with smart controls, the HomePod is a worthwhile investment.
This smart speaker has two color options: white and space gray. The seamless mesh fabric surrounding the speakers is attractive, and although the design is a bit larger than some of the speakers we tested, you shouldn’t have any problem incorporating it into your home décor. Behind the mesh fabric are seven tweeters and a subwoofer that project balanced and natural sound in every direction. To test sound quality, we played a variety of musical genres, and the HomePod excelled with every genre. The high-excursion woofer produced some of the best low frequencies we heard and complemented the seven-tweeter array perfectly. The biggest downside of using this speaker as your primary music-listening device is that it’s only compatible with one streaming music service: Apple Music.
One of the standout features of this smart speaker is its smart-home control options. It isn’t compatible with as many devices as the Amazon Echo 2nd Generation, but you can customize scenes that include multiple devices at once. For instance, you can setup a “Good Morning” scene that turns lights on, opens blinds, turns the heater on and starts your smart coffee maker all with one voice command, or by tapping one button in the Home app. Siri can even track your location and turn your lights on when you pull into your driveway. You don’t need a HomePod to use Apple’s HomeKit, but it gives you hands-free voice control for all your compatible smart-home devices.
We tested each voice assistant’s ability to search the web by asking them for advice about where to buy certain items, where to find the best pizza near our location and a few random trivia-type questions. Siri did a decent job of answering the most of our questions, but struggled with some of the local questions. When Siri did have an answer, it was helpful and accurate, but Siri couldn’t answer as many questions as Alexa and Google. It is important to note that because the HomePod is closely integrated with your iPhone and iPad, the mic is always on and listening. This is one of only two smart speakers we tested that doesn’t have a button to turn the mic off.
The Apple HomePod sounds great, looks good and is a great voice-controlled smart-home assistant. However, you should consider a different smart speaker if you don’t own an iPhone, or don’t enjoy using Apple’s iOS because the HomePod is worthless without them.