Published: Sun, February 11, 2018
Tech | By Tabitha Holland

Apple HomePod Launches With Big Sound-and Even Bigger Questions

Apple HomePod Launches With Big Sound-and Even Bigger Questions

An Apple Music account is required to access Apple's library of more than 45 million songs.

The smart speaker uses Apple's Siri voice agent, in the company's relatively late entry into the smart speaker market. The HomePod, which was released today, costs $349. But while Apple stores may be in short supply of the speaker, you're likely to have more luck at the many third-party retailers also offering the curvy speaker.

Early reviews of the recently launched Apple HomePod speaker seem to be tilting towards the positive end of the spectrum from an overall perspective, but critics have panned the new Apple product for its integration with the company's Siri digital assistant.

"Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it", wrote Brian Chen in his review of HomePod for The New York Times. "It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, handsome design that is so much fun to use". Apple has finally followed Amazon, Google and Microsoft by launching a smart speaker with a voice-controlled artificial intelligence assistant. The HomePod is also able to detect its position in a room by sending sound beams in all directions and detecting when and where the beams are bounced back from a wall in a sound test that lasts 10 seconds, according to the Verge. Boasting direct and ambient audio beamforming and a complex microphone array, the HomePod offers quite an upgrade over the standard smartphone speaker. Amazon can get anything delivered to you. The Echo is probably fine if you want a soundtrack for your dishwashing or showering, but sounded tinny next to the HomePod. "Siri is sorely lacking in capabilities compared with Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant". Google's speaker is the louder of the two, though mainly because of its bookshelf-speaker size and 12-pound heft, dwarfing the HomePod.

Bluetooth streaming: You can't just stream music from any Bluetooth source to the HomePod, even though it has Bluetooth 5.0 hardware inside. Whether you need a current stock price, seek the result of a calculation, wish to set a reminder or record a task, or must send a message, the HomePod can help you perform all those tasks hands-free. Apple leaves the competition behind when it comes to audio quality.

Apple is promising another feature that will arrive later in the year, an update to AirPlay that will let you control multiple HomePods is different rooms. If you are looking for a smart speaker, Alexa is ahead of the race with Google Home close behind. It can't answer as many basic information requests as Google Assistant. The company also chose to compile that playlist on Spotify, for a reason: At this point, Homepod users can't launch Spotify playlists on the device. Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do. Admittedly, this fine-tuning will come in the way of software updates in the future, but the fact remains that Google Home still dominates voice search and functionality.

More: A smart home sounds like a great idea.

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