Apple HomePod

Which Smart Speaker Is Best?

Sixteen percent of Americans now own a smart speaker according to research from NPR and Edison Research. The Smart Audio Report reports that number is up 127% from January 2017. According to the survey, “42 percent of users say their device is now ‘essential’ to their everyday life and 65 percent wouldn’t go back to life without one.” Recently Daniel Howley of High Tech Housecalls put the Amazon's Echo, Google Home and Apple's new HomePod to the test in a Smart Speaker Showdown.

Mr. Howley put the speakers through a series of tests:

  • Intelligence
  • Compatibility
  • Sound

Intelligence

Mr. Howley asked the speakers a series of mundane questions ranging from the (What's the weather like? What's on my calendar?) to more complicated instructions (Set an alarm. Get me an Uber. Play music.)

According to Mr. Howley:

Amazon Echo and Google Home tie for intelligence, addressing all of the questions asked and commands given. Apple HomePod, however, was only able to complete half of the intelligence test.

The Apple HomePod failed to check the calendar, could only estimate the commute by car - not mass transit, could not find your phone, and only allowed music to be played from Apple Music as opposed to Google Home and Amazon's Echo which are open-source music platforms. 

Compatibility

According to Mr. Howley:

Amazon Echo is compatible with the most devices on the market. The e-commerce giant says its Alexa smart assistant can communicate with 4,000 different smart gadgets in your home. Google says the Home’s Google Assistant can talk to 1,500 devices, a significantly smaller number than Amazon’s offering. Then there’s the HomePod and its Siri, which works with “hundreds” of accessories.

As far as your own smartphone, the Echo and Home work with both Android and iOS devices. The HomePod, however, will only work with iOS devices. So if you’re an Android owner, the HomePod isn’t for you.

Sound

It appears this one is no competition. Apple Homepod is clearly the best sounding speaker when compared to Amazon's Echo or Google Home. However, Sonos released a smart speaker of its own (Sonos One), which comes with full-fledged Alexa capabilities and Google Home released Home Max. To finish this battle of the Smart Speakers we turned to our friends at CNET who tested the sound quality of a Google Home Max ($399) vs. Apple HomePod ($350) vs. two Sonos Ones ($400) to see how they would compete.

According to CNET:

At the current time, it's pretty simple: buying two Sonos One speakers will give you even better sound than a single HomePod. Stereo brings the best music listening experience overall, and the One's balanced sound benefits from Sonos' long history in making Wi-Fi speakers. 

As good as it sounds for a single speaker, a month after its debut it looks like Apple is still working out the HomePod's kinks. If you want a kitchen or "pottering around" speaker, the HomePod might be more suited due to its omnidirectional nature, but even buying a single Sonos One gives you 80 percent of the sound for about half the cost. 

That being said, my colleague David Carnoy liked what he heard during a demo of the stereo HomePods running beta software in the weeks before the Apple speaker's official release. We're looking forward to testing the HomePod and Sonos stereo modes head-to-head once Apple releases the final software.

But two HomePods is still going to cost considerably more than two Sonos Ones. And in the meantime, a single HomePod can't compete with two Sonos Ones just yet.

We should note that the HomePod is brand new to the market and many of the intelligence and compatibility issues could easily be solved if and when Apple releases an update to its operating system. However, for $350 we should note that it's probably best to wait and see. As is the case with all Apple products, the second generation versions are typically much more advanced than the original.  

If you are in the market for a new smart speaker and have any questions about which might be best for you, our experts at A.I. Home Solutions are happy to answer any questions you might have. If you fill out the form below one of our service representatives can assist you in no time! 

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