It was presented last June during WWDC17 and was scheduled to arrive in stores by the end of 2017, although Apple finally had to delay its launch.
Now Cupertino’s firm is ready to start marketing HomePod and they have announced that it will be ready for reservations from January 26th and will arrive at the stores of the first batch of countries on February 9th with a price of $350.
The HomePod is the Siri smart speaker that Apple has developed to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Unlike the other competitors, Cupertino has opted for a product that is very powerful in terms of data processing and promises to offer much higher audio quality than other alternatives available on the market.
Its characteristics also make the price of the product higher and the question everyone is asking now is… Will it really be worth it? We believe that it all depends on the importance that each user gives to the audio quality they want to have when listening to their favorite songs.
Key features of the Apple HomePod
In the following lines we will review the main characteristics of the HomePod, its differences with its counterparts of other brands and we will see if the price difference is justified .
Audio quality, the strength of the HomePod
Apple promises that its Smart Speaker will take years off other similar devices on the market, especially Google and Amazon alternatives.
The HomePod has seven tweeters inside and each has individual custom controllers, amplifiers and translators . This allows the device to focus the sound in a directional way and automatically adjust according to its location to obtain the best possible acoustics as we will see later on.
Another component of the HomePod is a four-inch subwoofer with dedicated high excursion . Thanks to this feature the diaphragm has a 20 mm travel (something that Apple claims to be a milestone in a subwoofer of this size), which translates into more air movement, creating more powerful bass.
In addition, Apple has built in a low-frequency calibration microphone that hears the bass and automatically adjusts it to minimize the distortion common with subwoofers.
The speaker has sensors that are capable of analyzing the space in which the device is located. Thanks to these sensors it knows where it is in the room, if it is near a wall or in a corner, and automatically focuses the sound to the center of the room , minimizing the sound projected towards any wall which could cause distortions or bad acoustics due to the bouncing of the audio.
In comparison the Amazon Echo for 100$ has two speakers and the Google Home for 130$ has only one. If we wanted an option with a subwoofer we would have to go with the Google Home Max with a price of $400.
Design and colors
The Home is available in two different color options: white and space grey (although this time it is quite close to black). It is 172 mm high and 142 mm wide, and weighs 2.5 kg.
The outside of the speaker is covered with an acoustic mesh that helps the six microphones in the device to better hear the voice commands the user gives to Siri . Apple claims that the device is capable of understanding the user’s voice commands even from across the room with the music playing at full volume.
Looking at the competition, the Amazon Echo is 236 mm tall and the microphones are built into printed circuit boards instead of being isolated near the outside of the speaker as in Apple’s alternative.
Another point on which Apple has differentiated itself abysmally from the competition. The HomePod is equipped with Apple’s A8 chip, the same one found inside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus .
It may seem like too powerful a chip for a smart speaker, but this gives Cupertino’s company room to evolve Siri in important ways and also to use technologies such as real-time software woofer modeling, direct and ambient audio mixing, real-time buffer storage, audio beamforming or multi-channel echo cancellation.
In the case of the competition, the Google Home uses the same chips as the second generation Chromecast, a device with a retail price of $35.
Configuration and connectivity
Apple has done an excellent job in setting up its wireless accessories and as with the AirPods the HomePod will pair with an iOS device simply by turning it on close by . The most important requirement will be that the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch works with iOS 11.2.5 or higher.
The HomePod will be controlled through AirPlay 2. Thanks to this technology it will be possible to have several HomePods in different rooms and they will communicate with each other to play the same music in all of them or a different theme in each of the rooms where they are.
The Apple speakerphone features Bluetooth 5.0 and WiFi 802.11 AC MIMO. In addition, it is also compatible with HomeKit , so it will be possible to use the integrated Siri to manage the home automation and give instructions such as “turn off the lights in the living room”, “set the heating to 21 degrees” or similar.
Integration with the Apple Ecosystem
Without a doubt, Apple Music users will be the most interested in the arrival of the HomePod to the market. The device is perfectly integrated with the company’s streaming music service and it will be possible to play the more than 45 million songs directly from the device.
In this case you can tell Siri to play a particular artist or song, add a song to a playlist, pause a song, and many other options.
Other services such as Spotify will not be compatible with Siri at first, although tracks can be played through the HomePod thanks to the integration of AirPlay.
Yes, the HomePod can also be controlled without using Siri and for this purpose Apple has integrated a small touch screen on top of it.
The display will show + and – buttons which when held down will allow the volume to be adjusted. In addition, it will be possible to move to the next song by touching the center of the screen twice, three times to go back or once to stop or start playback.
Finally, a long press on the center of the screen will activate Siri without using the voice command Hey, Siri.
Is the HomePod really worth it?
Now that you know all the features of the HomePod, it’s quite clear that the difference in price compared to Google and Amazon alternatives is sufficiently justified, at least looking at the breakdown of components and technologies available. You have to wait to try out the loudspeaker in first person to be able to appreciate the audio quality and the general functioning of the system to know if all this technological deployment is really worth it and makes a real difference against its competitors.