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analysis, in-depth review of its features and price

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Music has always been a very important part of Apple’s DNA . From Vangelis’ spectacular “Chariots of Fire” used to present the original Macintosh to Dylan’s influences on Steve Jobs’ ideas: the company has always used this art as an evocative vehicle to conceive and transmit its products, very intimately involved in the company’s philosophy.

analysis, in-depth review of its features and price
analysis, in-depth review of its features and price

The HomePod can be considered as the heir to the values of the iPod and Apple’s musical history, pure “wearable” technology – only this time for home

Without going much further back, the first product that was not a Mac – anticipated in the very invitations of that keynote in this way – was the iPod itself. A commitment by the company and Jobs himself to two markets that would eventually lay the foundations of the company and strengthen its future : mobility and music, combined, as the first major device that was not a computer and was focused on another area. For the rest of the life of this product – progressively eclipsed by the arrival of the iPhone since 2007 – the rest of the musical world also succumbed to the charms of the iPod : contracts with renowned groups such as U2, the birth of iTunes and online music purchasing services became even more intertwined at Apple.

Today we will talk about the arrival of a new type of device within the brand family, which – just like music – has very strong roots within the company’s history and in certain aspects can even be considered an heir to those original iPod values in many ways. Some – including myself – consider it as a reinvention of that concept . Welcome home, HomePod .

HomePod, home analysis

The HomePod is a device for listening to music and being used as a personal assistant. It is something that we will place in the house, so it should be something that attracts attention as a decorative element but that does not stand out within the decoration: a minimalist element with a certain neutral character that combines with classic and more modern environments, without losing the main utility of the product which is to offer the best sound as an intelligent speaker ( that is, to send sound and receive voice commands ).

Apple HomePod

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For this purpose, the HomePod is a 17.2 cm high and 14.2 cm diameter cylinder covered with a seamless mesh in white or space grey ( is actually practically black ). This mesh has the traces of the material of a few millimetres oriented in perpendicular to the body of the HomePod, which facilitates the entrance and exit of the sound, but gives the appearance of a protective “mesh”. Even the power cable ( anchored to the body, it is not possible to remove it or replace the country plug ) has a cover in this case of traditional textured mesh that provides continuity to the design.

The appearance is almost that of a decorative object, with the total absence of physical buttons or visual indicators of ignition or similar. The only interface with the user is through voice , and with a visual and tactile response zone at the top: the Siri sphere, and two zones for raising and lowering the volume. There is no on/off button either, we simply connect the device to electricity and Siri will start working after a discreet white illumination of its dial. The synchronization with our iCloud account is done in the same way as how we pair AirPods with the W1 chip: in the video included in this article you can see the short and quick pairing process for the first time.

A technology that detects the environment

Once the HomePod is out of the box and configured , our next question will be “Where do I put it?” . Traditionally this is a question with all the sense in the world, the orientation of classic speakers should focus on the user because the device is usually designed to direct the sound towards an area. The case of the HomePod could be considered as a 360º design, starting with its physical appearance which is exactly the same from any angle.

It is not built this way at random: no matter how we place it ( for aesthetics, with the cable as hidden as possible, of course ) but at the level of sound quality the device has been designed so that it does not matter where we place it: thanks to the six internal microphones and its seven speakers the HomePod uses spatial sound detection to identify what is nearby and which speaker or microphone to prioritize to send or receive sound. The microphones and speakers are located internally around the cylinder, so there is no dead angle for this.

This, which may seem like a marketing strategy , can be perfectly appreciated with the HomePod at home. For my tests, I left the HomePod on the wall and then moved it to the centre of the room: you can immediately see the change in the sound power on the different channels . What it does is send the ambient sound through the side channels – once it’s automatically oriented inside the room – and the main voice or the heavier instruments, through the central channel. The ambience is enhanced by making the sound bounce off the walls, and reach us indirectly, giving the sensation that there are several devices distributed around the room.

Overwhelming sound quality and excellent voice detection, its strengths

Without a doubt, the two aspects where the HomePod stands out the most are the sound quality and the incredible voice detection from practically anywhere in the house. For both situations, Apple has designed a sound system that complements itself using again its advantage as a hardware and software manufacturer. It uses the A8 chip to manage not only the spatial position of the device depending on its location, but also the processing of the sound signal by boosting the bass: one of the most obvious signals at work here is that this bass can be heard even at low volume , achieving a very contrasting sound and well combined with the high tones and ambient interaction that comes to us indirectly.

When you listen to music for the first time on the HomePod , you will find this sound of surprising quality even more so as it comes from such a small and contained device. The weight goes up to 2.5 kg, and beyond being a consequence of the construction and instruments used in it, it also brings great stability to the product. We see this when we use the HomePod with tremendously powerful bass and even at maximum volume, the device does not move from the table.

Apple HomePod

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At first, it is surprising that such a small device can flood a room with such forceful sound

If you have a smaller speaker at home, or one that is too light, you will have noticed that many of them can be moved by making small jumps with the consequent danger of falling and breaking. In the HomePod, this does not happen: in all my tests it has remained firm and stable regardless of the surface where I have used it , wood, glass or natural quartz ( Silestone in kitchens, or similar ). In addition, positional detection using sound equalization literally “floods” the room with sound, and reaches other adjacent rooms without much trouble. My living room – of about 35m2 – was more than covered with just one HomePod working without the need to even have it at full volume.

The sound will surely surprise you, but the voice detection has seemed to me almost magical : here you can notice the effort of Apple for the engineering covered by the HomePod, and this device is able to detect and receive our voice commands from almost anywhere in the house , if it is relatively square and – in my case – about 90m2 for example. And it doesn’t matter even if we have music at full volume: the noise reduction system eliminates everything that is not voice and the A8 analyzes only our commands instantly . You can certainly see the years of experience and lessons learned from iOS products here.

In my tests, the HomePod correctly recognized and interpreted my voice from almost anywhere in the house

I have made tests from the other end of the house ( again, you can see it in the video ), from one end of the living room with the music at full volume and even, leaving the HomePod in the bathroom and talking to it from inside the shower, with the screen closed and the water open. In either case my voice is recognised , and so is my request. That is, it is not that the order is received but it is received incorrectly: it is received even in these conditions and it is interpreted correctly. I’ve even had my iPhone XS Max close by and when I say “Hey Siri”, it activates the one on the HomePod, at the other end of the house. Very surprised by how well this works, which on the other hand is a very important aspect within an intelligent speaker that works as an assistant.

Two HomePods that complement AirPlay 2

One of the most eagerly awaited features of the HomePod is the ability to combine two to enjoy even more powerful and immersive stereo sound . The configuration of this function is completely null and void for the user: there is absolutely nothing else to do than to configure the second HomePod with the same iCloud account. Each device will then detect the position of the other and intelligently distribute the intensity and nuances of the sound.

At home I tried it out by watching a movie using the Apple TV – I chose Mad Max: Fury Road, for blunt sound – and it was quite an experience. The incredible power of each HomePod adds up to surround us almost literally with the ambient sound with clear and very defined voices. The system automatically detects that there are two HomePods working together and we only have to turn the volume up and down: they’ll do what they have to do to ensure the sound quality. In the Apple TV interface, we will see them linked by arrows, when both are selected:

We can disable this function, of course, simply by indicating which of the HomePods we want to use as a sound output. If we only mark one, it will be the main one. If we mark both, they will work as a single combined sound system . This is also part of the AirPlay 2 protocol, which allows sound to be distributed to all devices that support it. For example, we can distribute the sound from an iPhone to a HomePod in a given room – or again use both for a more powerful, surround sound by selecting both. You don’t even need to use your phone: you can ask Siri to bring the sound to the device you want – and much more.

At AppleWhat is AirPlay 2: Q&A on Apple’s most advanced wireless protocol

The HomePod as a personal assistant

Shortcuts for iOS 12 or SiriKit open up new possibilities for Siri that will perfectly complement the HomePod

If, as we said before, the HomePod is good at recognizing voice commands, it’s good at using it as an intelligent assistant. The first of the uses where I tested it was with the phone call: the device is very useful in this case when for example takes advantage of this detection technology to receive our conversation and the power of the speakers to direct it to us. We can use it in the kitchen while cooking to have a conversation or in a medium sized room, without any problem and understanding the other speaker perfectly ( and being understood also ) without any problem. We can hang up and pick up directly by asking Siri, from whom we can even ask for information about missed calls.

As a personal assistant, Siri is also improving. First of all because the latest software update that improved the devices released previously in other countries – and which already includes the Spanish and Mexican version – allows for example searches by song lyrics or using the Search my iPhone to ask for a device to be found. This adds to the traditional capabilities of sending or reading new messages, asking for weather information, setting timers while cooking… everything we usually ask Siri for is available on the HomePod and works perfectly with the excellent sound detection .

In certain cases, more interaction of Siri with the context of the conversation or finer spinning is missing than we ask for – however, the use of Shortcuts in iOS 12 can greatly improve the way we work with Siri. Beyond the fact that developers are using SiriKit to integrate it into their applications as a perfect integration measure for the HomePod, the creation of our own shortcuts or routines using this new operating system app is in itself, a major breakthrough.

In AppleSiri Shortcuts, analysis of the next evolution of Siri

For example, we can create a shortcut that when we say “Good morning”, activates certain house lights, plays our favorite song to recharge our morning energy and sets the smart thermostat to a temperature. Or set up the house for a movie session using our own voice command ” Hey Siri, today TV, couch and blanket “. This level of customization is important because we don’t leave it all up to the ecosystem, we can also contribute and make “more ours” these devices.

Pure musical DNA updated

Without a doubt, the HomePod is one of the most interesting intelligent speakers of the moment , at a good price (349 ?) with an extraordinary sound quality and interesting personal assistant functions supported by the exceptional voice detection of the device. It is a product designed to squeeze the Apple ecosystem ( Bluetooth 5.0 is only for the first configuration, not for connecting to another device ) and takes advantage of the Apple Music subscription for all music management through Siri ( we can listen to any sound source, but Siri will only search in Apple Music )

As points of improvement, it could have been added a battery model to be able to move it more freely around the house: although this is not common, it would have been more comfortable and would even aesthetically round off the “360 design” concept. And, of course, it could be charged by a wireless charging base when we leave it where we usually put it.

The HomePod is the perfect complement to the Apple ecosystem by adding sound quality and seamless integration with other devices and services

The HomePod is undoubtedly what the iPod was to music at the time : technology wearable but in this case not for us, but for our home with an exceptional sound in a size and a minimalist design, elegant and functional. As an extra, it is accompanied by an outstanding integration and voice command detection that gives more value to an increasingly interesting Siri, especially since the arrival of Shortcuts with iOS 12. Without a doubt, it is pure musical DNA of the company turned into device : a must for music lovers and also for those who want to make the most of the Apple ecosystem at home.

This product has been licensed for testing by Apple . You can view our corporate relations policy here.

Apple HomePod

PVP at Fnac for 329 EUR PVP at MediaMarkt for 332 EUR

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