A couple of months ago Apple waded into the connected speaker wars with its own take called “The HomePod“, which uses Apple’s long time digital assistant “Siri”. Apple is nothing but a marketing machine however and it knows that Siri can’t go head to head in smarts with Alexa or the Google Assistant and as such it has positioned the HomePod as a music focussed smart speaker.
They have done this mainly by beefing up the speaker (seven tweeters! which is apparently 6 more than the Echo) in the HomePod and comparing it to the Sonos Play 1 , which if you haven’t heard before, is worth every penny of its roughly €200 asking price. As well as the speaker they also claim to have worked on some audio software bits and Siri’s music knowledge so that it can now answer in depth questions like “Hey Siri, who is the drummer in this song” which we will believe works when we
see hear it.
As well as music the HomePod will also work as a smart home hub and will be compatible with Apples HomeKit ecosystem, which has a fair few compatible devices at the moment – although for our money is probably outgunned at the moment by the support of Samsung’s SmartThings System – so it does a lot of what the Echo and Home can do around the house.
Should you buy a HomePod over the Echo or Google Home?
So as you can see the HomePod has a lot going for it and as such we received a question on Twitter around the time of its unveiling, from an Irish reader who was on the fence about whether to wait for this or to get a Google Home. It is a good question and doesn’t really have a straightforward answer, but from where we stand there are a few different aspects that will sway you either way:
How much will you really use your smart speaker?
If you’re slightly interested in smart home technology/speakers and are looking to dip your toes in the water then get an Amazon Echo Dot. Its £50, sounds better than your smartphone and controls all the same smart home tech as the full size Echo which costs another £100 more.
The full size Echo sounds better, as it should for £100 more, however to our ears the Google Home has it beat slightly and is only £130. The HomePod should beat both easily, however it is an Apple product… so is… over £200 more than the Google Home at an initial retail price of £349! You’ll want to be sure you’ll be using it a fair bit in order to recoup that kind of investment.
What do you want to do with you smart speaker?
If you’re really interested in just being able to do basic operations like set timers, see what its like to turn off the lights, TV etc with your voice then again just go for an Echo Dot. If you want to get directions, commute times and/or already use Google’s suite of online apps to run your life then get a Home. If you are a massive music fan/audiophile, love Apple and have some McGregor type cash lying around, then the HomePod with its great sound & design could be for you.
How soon do you want to buy a smart speaker? How much of a risk do you want to take on it not being supported in Ireland?
We have guides on our site on how Irish users can get their hands on the Echo or Home and it is a fairly easy process, we also have guides on how to set these devices up in Ireland. While we are sure that the Apple will be no exception and we will be able to uncover work arounds to get it to work here, better the devil you know and all that.
Also Apple has given no firm timeline on the speakers release date, simply saying it will be in the UK by the end of the year. Which we would imagine will be just before christmas, if you have ever tried to get a new iPhone in the initial few months after it goes on sale then you will understand our pessimism at being able to get one right away.
While it sounds like we are anti-HomePod we really aren’t. It is just that again Apple is late to the market here. They are also far more expensive than the competition. If these two points weren’t enough they also have a far worse digital assistant than the competition. However Apple was late to the smartphone and digital music player markets and we all know how they turned out, so it would be a brave man to bet against the Cupertino heavyweight not making a sizeable dent in the connected speaker market too.