Apple HomePod Hands-on: Sounds Great, But Siri Needs Work

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It work with whatever HomeKit devices you have set up, including any automations you've created.

But without support for a wider range of services - one that recognizes the reality we live in where most people use a variety of different services and devices from many different companies - the HomePod makes no sense for me.

The Sonos One speaker, which costs $199, includes Amazon Alexa voice controls and will add Google Assistant voice controls later in the year, Sonos said.

Besides being late to the game, Apple's HomePod is priced at $349, compared to an Amazon Echo at $149 and Google Home at $129. Apple describes it as a "breakthrough" music speaker with the intelligence of Siri, its voice-response assistant software. With the Apple device, there are now no cheaper options. At setup, however, the light is simply white, only becoming infused with color once you turn on Siri (you have the option not to if you just want to use the HomePod as a "dumb" AirPlay speaker).

Depending on who you ask, the HomePod is one of two things. Apple says that only after "Hey Siri" is said to the HomePod will any information (encrypted) be sent to the servers using an anonymous Siri identifier. However as with Sonos, Bose and certain other Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speakers, you can splash out and pair two HomePods so they work as a true stereo pair. Great surround speakers for your Sonos home theater, too ● Play songs, check news and traffic, manage smart devices and enjoy other helpful Amazon Alexa skills using a single Sonos speaker.

Still, if you own several Apple devices already, purchasing a HomePod could be a particularly enticing idea. Apple has designed the new HomePod from top to bottom, the main priority being the audio part.

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The installed base of smart speakers grew by 18 million units in the December quarter, CIRP reported. While Siri has proven to be adept at ordering food, sending messages, and getting directions, it fell behind the other two assistants in our testing when it came to smart home skills, general knowledge, and online shopping, among others.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesThere's also the major, nearly crippling, limitation on the music side: The device can work with any music streaming service as a typical Bluetooth speaker would, but the Siri part - the "smart" part - only works with Apple Music.

One of those boxes is to approve personalization with the HomePod.

Six built-in microphones mean that Siri can hear your commands from across the room even while music is playing - and this was indeed the case in our demo. We think they will be blown away by the audio quality.

What's more likely is that Siri will get better over time.

Apple is now taking pre-orders for the HomePod, but there is some confusion as to whether services like Spotify and devices the Apple TV can be used with the speaker. We don't know yet how it will stack up to the HomePod, quality-wise, but if price is the consideration, then this is a goo deal.

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