Apple's HomePod User Guide Tells You Everything About the Smart Speaker

NATION-NOW     5 things you need to know Friday     
       5 things you need to know Friday

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Google's speaker is the louder of the two, though mainly because of its bookshelf-speaker size and 12-pound heft, dwarfing the HomePod.

At its spacious loft, in rooms both big and small, its sound quality was rich and resonant, allowing for a fine details like guitar strumming, background percussion and vocals to come through crisp and clear.

Powered by the Siri voice assistant, Apple hopes to put the speaker at the center of its HomeKit smart home plans, as the one device to rule not only your playlists, but your entire in-home connected ecosystem.

But earlier this week, my optimism subsided after spending a bit more time with the HomePod.

The Sonos One doesn't sound as good as HomePod either. But its limitations - mostly Siri - overshadowed the experience.

"You can't ask Siri to look up a recipe".

In Australia, Google's Home has been available for some time, while Amazon's Alexa devices - the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus - was only released this month, finally bringing Antipodeans in line with their USA brethren. It's more than triple the price of the popular Amazon Echo ($99).

In certain lighting, the shadows of the white model's sponge-like mesh netting appear somewhat worn. "Not even Siri can answer whether that will be possible".

Inside, eight speakers are controlled by a powerful processor.

He also described Siri functionalities of the speaker. A woofer with a custom amplifier sits near the top.

If you don't already have favorite podcasts, mind, HomePod isn't so helpful. "We made you a playlist".

The above being said, the HomePod is starting to seem like a niche product targeting Apple's loyal fanbase. That's why the HomePod can not be configured with anything other than an iOS device. Siri doesn't know any, while Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa both tie for groaningly very bad dad joke of the year. "Siri doesn't even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone". But Siri sometimes stumbled around current events or trivia questions, stating, "Sorry, I can't search the web here".

"If you don't like Apple Music, don't buy a HomePod", said Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch.

The device's thoughtful engineering helps ensure Siri accurately hears and responds to commands.

Besides Apple Music ($9.99 per month), you can have Siri play music you've purchased through iTunes, but unless you also subscribe to iTunes Match ($24.99 a year), not the songs in your library that you may have ripped off CDs way back when or imported from some other source. Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do. That can be turned off in settings.

The hands-free options the HomePod offers are wide ranging; in the right office environment, the device can add convenience, save time, and improve productivity, not to mention morale. But it could hinder adoption out of the gate. It can't yet control iOS devices or Apple TVs, and it can't distinguish between multiple users' voices.

Apple's HomePod sounds fantastic, but it's meant to be used with Apple Music - you'll need an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad with Apple Music installed in order to even set up the HomePod.