The HomePod is just one of Apple’s big announcements at WWDC 2017. It’s a Siri-powered, Apple Music-playing smart speaker. The fact that it seems to be going after Sonos premium audio and Amazon Echo simultaneously is interesting. It’s also puzzling. Will Apple’s latest piece of hardware have what it takes to conquer the smart home?
The HomePod is a speaker first. It isn’t just a virtual assistant giving you the weather in a tinny voice. 7 tweeters are arranged in a circle inside its perfectly symmetrical body. A 4-inch subwoofer fires upwards, and is the largest in its class – double the size of Amazon Echo ‘s woofer. The HomePod has a 6 mic array, supports AirPlay 2 for multiroom audio, and is powered by an Apple A8 chip.
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about what makes this thing special. It will cost a whopping $350, more than a Sonos Play:3 ($300) and MUCH more than an Amazon Echo ($180) or Google Home ($130). The Sonos Play:5 is a totally different animal, and is the only one in this bunch to outprice the HomePod. With its premium hardware, the HomePod promises Sonos-caliber audio quality, so adding Siri and the Apple brand can easily justify the price increase.
The HomePod really is clever, and can tell when it’s parked next to a wall. It can bounce certain sounds off that wall, for a much better listening experience. It works with HomeKit-enabled devices, so you can also turn your lights on and off. It’s a good-looking device as well, though design is subjective, of course.
Where does Apple’s expensive smart hub falter? It sounds very limited at the moment. It can only do a few things right now: Siri, HomeKit, and Apple Music. So far, Apple haven’t announced third-party support, so you can’t listen to Spotify or call an Uber. Amazon Echo is powered by Alexa and has loads of “Skills”, while the Google Home rolls out with new abilities all the time. It also only connects through Wi-Fi, so you can’t use it as a boring old Bluetooth speaker. The name isn’t that great, and I feel like something Siri-related would have been more marketable. Also, did I mention that it’s expensive?
We’ll see how Cupertino’s play into the smart home market will compete. Ultimately, it’s got an Apple logo on the box, so people will buy it because they know it will integrate seamlessly with their iPhone in the Apple ecosystem. The question is exactly how many people will actually buy it.
Are you geeks looking forward to the HomePod? Do you already have a smart assistant that you like? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!