Monday, June 6, 2017, was the day Apple entered a new market with the HomePod. A smart speaker, with which the Cupertino-based giant aims to take on the likes of Google Home, Amazon Echo, and the Sonos Play 1 at their own game. But, the question is, at first glance, how does this product stack up against the competition?
Apple’s HomePod Can It Compete?
If you were able to attend or watched Monday’s WWDC event online. It was evident during the announcement; Apple didn’t focus entirely on how smart the HomePod is. Why?
That has probably something to do with how far Siri is behind in the intelligence stakes when compared to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Instead, Apple chose to talk more about HomePod’s music speaker abilities. And that is why the Sonos Play 1 is included in this comparison. Because unlike Amazon, and Google’s products, yes, it is quite smart. However, overall it’s nothing more than a quality Bluetooth speaker that can be controlled with a smartphone.
And this is where the HomePod bridges the divide, yes, you can control it with your voice. But, it will also provide excellent sound quality, with the promise of spatially aware sound-projecting speakers.
Starting with the HomePod’s sound qualities, compared to the Sonos Play 1, they both offer excellent quality audio. However, the inclusion of Siri into the mix takes the HomePod to a new level compared to the Sonos. In reality, comparing the Sonos Play 1, to it, is rather unfair. Especially, when you consider it has no assistant and can not be verbally controlled. However, considering Apple has pitched it’s device as a purveyor of quality audio, that’s why the Sonos is here.
In fact, the whole reason, Apple is pitching the HomePod’s audio capabilities, is because the Sonos is a one dimension product. And when, and if consumers get to hear the sound output. They will realize that for a bit more money they can get smart features too. Additionally, Apple makes it clear; it thinks the audio output from the Amazon Echo and Google Home is inferior in comparison to its product.
Unfortunately, this is where we wave goodbye to the Sonos Play 1; however, it is also where we can further compare the HomePod. Siri was one of the first voice-activated assistants to make an appearance back in 2011. The problem for Apple, however, has been keeping up with a continual cycle of improvement. As such it has been left behind by the likes of Alexa and even more so by Google’s Assistant.
Compared to Siri on the HomePod, both the assistants on the market leader from Amazon and Google Home can understand natural language. In comparison, Siri is far behind, yes, it can do everything it is capable of doing on an iPhone or another device. Which includes controlling a smart home via Apple’s HomeKit, however, there are good reasons why Apple prefers to focus on the audio, not the assistant.
So, what is clear, is that, other than it’s audio capabilities, the HomePod has a long way to go to compete with Google Home or Amazon Echo. As for how Google Home compete’s, it’s far in advance of Apple’s product. Plus it has been said that in many ways it has superior natural language understanding than the Echo. Mainly, because it can differentiate between users by their voice, and with it, you can call anyone.
However, this is where the HomePod and Google Home suffer in comparison to Echo, the market leader. And that is in third-party integration; the Echo can do so much more than both competitors. It allows a user to shop, order food, in fact, it has over 10,000 third-party abilities. None of which so far, are available on its rivals. How long will it take them to bridge this gap? We don’t know, but, we do know that Google is working hard to do so.
As for Apple’s HomePod, how soon will a user be able to ask it to “Turn off the lights” or utter another verbal command like with the Echo? Apple is surely planning to enable this functionality, as for when it will arrive, we don’t know. Additionally, it’s not clear if the shuffling of app permissions is required to allow everyone to control it with ease.
Release Date and Price
When can you get your hands on Apple’s HomePod? It’s due to be released this coming December in the US, UK, and Australia. As for an exact date, that’s not currently known, however, price wise it’s by far the more expensive.
At the WWDC, Apple failed to give any amount other than in USD, which is $349. At current exchange rates, this would convert to £270 GBP, and $465 Australian Dollars. Compared, the Amazon Echo would set you back $180 USD, and the Google Home $130 USD. Meaning that it’s nearly double the price of the current market leader, which is surely a brave move by Apple.