What is this thing?
That, in essence, is the doubt many onlookers have asked about Apple’s HomePod orator given its unveiling last summer. The healthy desire is to review it to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. It’s a orator with a articulate partner in it, the meditative goes. Apple just wants a piece of that flourishing pie.
But that doesn’t lay right. Sure, Siri, the partner at the heart of the speaker, can answer questions, set alarms, and spin off connected light bulbs. But the HomePod costs $350, roughly 3 times as much as the bottom Echo and Home devices, it sounds miles better than both, and Apple isn’t scarcely as endangered with aiding you by every partial of your day and determining all in your home. The HomePod is decidedly some-more “speaker” than “smart.”
You could then consider of it as Apple’s first strike on Sonos, the renouned builder of connected speakers. That’s a closer analogue but still not totally on the nose. The whole representation with Sonos is that its speakers are hubs for every music service you caring about. They’re also best employed as a family. The HomePod, meanwhile, is a unique device for a unique service. It may turn some-more like Sonos, but Apple has a bent to keep things for itself, so it’s tough to contend to what extent.
Instead, in its stream state, the HomePod is something much simpler: a neat appendage for Apple Music subscribers. Just as the AirPods are fun and adorned headphones for Apple diehards to listen to music on the go—albeit ones that still work for those who don’t live in Apple’s world—the HomePod is a appreciative way for them to listen to that music at home. That’s it. It sounds great, and for many of the 36 million people profitable for Apple’s music service every month, it’ll stream music and podcasts with little friction.
It just doesn’t do much some-more than that, quite for people who aren’t hitched to Apple’s wagon. The HomePod is not revolutionary; it’s just a excellent little orator for a niche that becomes very clearly tangible as you use it. That’s OK. Apple doesn’t have to disrupt the paradigm, or whatever, with every product it releases. Aiming low isn’t the worst—it’s just not the best, either.
The HomePod is a large little cylinder. It doesn’t strike me as select the way MacBooks and iPhones do, and it gives no external denote that it is even done by Apple. But I’d disagree that’s a good thing: the practical demeanour helps it mix in with whatever taste it’s near. It’ll lay on a vital room list or kitchen opposite though job courtesy to itself. It’s decidedly not ugly.
For what it’s worth, the soothing filigree fabric surrounding the orator is appreciative to the touch. Same goes for the thick, fabric-coated wire fluctuating from the back. A round touchscreen sits on top of the device, but it’s much easier in range than the display on Amazon’s Echo Show. There’s a little light settlement that moves whenever you correlate with Siri, a couple of capacitive volume buttons whenever music is playing, and a vacant space between those buttons that lets you play, pause, and skip tracks. That’s about it.
The whole thing is small, at 5.6×5.6×6.8 inches. It’s squatter than a Google Home Max but a splash fatter than the Sonos One. It weighs 5.5lbs, which is again a bit some-more than the One. There’s some heft to it. It doesn’t feel like a toy.
It is worth observant that the silicone bottom at the bottom of the HomePod could repairs your furniture, though. After complaints from several users, Apple has concurred that the orator may leave white ring marks on timber surfaces. So, don’t leave it there. we did not have this problem resting the device on a marble countertop, but it’s an peculiar slip all the same. The company says the rings can reanimate on their own but doesn’t pledge it.
Inside the HomePod, Apple has packaged a ring of 7 tweeters, any of which are away amplified, along with a four-inch upward-firing woofer to help with drum response. There are 7 microphones built in as well, 6 of which are used to help Siri hear you while the other helps the woofer better control bass. As a indicate of comparison, the Sonos One has a six-microphone array, two amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer. So there’s a bit some-more going on here.
Above all in the HomePod is Apple’s A8 chip, which is better famous as the processor that powered the iPhone 6. This is used to make Siri go, for one, but it also allows Apple to muster its code of digital vigilance estimate (DSP). In elementary terms, the HomePod uses the A8 and those microphones to magnitude the room in which it’s located and the audio it’s playing. Then it adjusts that audio on the fly to equivocate exaggeration and keep a comparatively offset sound profile.
DSP is not a new thing for wireless speakers, but, in effect, the HomePod is trying to boldly take a lane and paint it back in a way that’s tailored to the acoustics of your room. This can be good and bad (and we’ll get into that), but it does make it a bit formidable to definitively speak about the HomePod’s sound.
One amiable censure we have about the device is that it’s not weather-resistant, but the DSP party tricks advise the HomePod is really meant for the indoors.
Listing picture by Jeff Dunn