Apple HomePod review: Siri lets down best sounding intelligent speaker

It’s a wifi orator to kick in terms of audio nonetheless being sealed in to Apple services is frustrating and a voice partner is lacking

Tue 13 Feb 2018

Last mutated on Tue 13 Feb 2018







Great sound, not so good Siri … Apple’s HomePod.
Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for a Guardian

After many anticipation, and conjecture that Apple has missed a vessel and handed feat to Amazon’s champion Echo, a HomePod intelligent orator is finally here. But is it indeed any good? And since accurately does it cost 4 times as many as an Echo?

The HomePod is a voice-controlled orator that listens out for a wakeword “Hey, Siri” and afterwards starts streaming what we contend to Apple to appreciate your commands and play whatever it is we wish. The fabric-covered cylinder stands an iPhone X-and-a-bit high (172mm) with a hole of an iPhone X (142mm), weighing 2.5kg (14.4 times a iPhone X).

It’s utterly a lot bigger than Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home, and bigger still than a Sonos One, nonetheless it’s also a slightest assuming. Available in black or white, it has a tiny shimmer touch-sensitive front on tip with light-up and and reduction buttons and a dark centre arrangement that flashes colour when Siri is listening for you. The rest of a manifest aspect is wrapped in filigree fabric, with a dark rubber feet on a bottom.

It looks during home on a book shelf, a tip of an AV section or on a kitchen table, nonetheless also doesn’t mount out, until we start personification music.

Hey, Siri



Siri’s mark on a tip of a HomePod shows it’s listening, nonetheless it is still some approach behind Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for a Guardian

The HomePod competence technically be a intelligent speaker, nonetheless unequivocally it’s all about a song and reduction about a application of a voice assistant. That’s partly since Apple’s Siri is some approach behind Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, both in form and function.

Siri is a usually intelligent partner that offers a choice of masculine or womanlike voices, that is a good change, nonetheless is an peculiar brew of good prepared set pieces of celebrity intermixed with awkward text-to-speech smashes a apparition of being anything other than a reticent robot. But we don’t have to take my word for it – Siri is a same on a HomePod as it is on an iPhone.

On a HomePod Siri can set one timer, nonetheless not mixed or named timers like Alexa and a rest can; it can control some intelligent home inclination as prolonged as they’re bending adult to Apple’s HomeKit system; it can answer some comparatively singular questions and do a common section conversions and calculations. You can also set it adult so that Siri can send content messages, emanate records and reminders, regulating a iPhone and comment of a chairman who set adult a HomePod when it is on a same wifi network. But that means anyone with entrance to a orator could send messages sanctimonious to be a owners – there is no multi-user support during all.

Siri is also meant to be means to send messages by WhatsApp and a handful of others, nonetheless we couldn’t get it to work – Siri kept observant “WhatsApp couldn’t find” my contact, notwithstanding me holding a content review regulating WhatsApp on my phone usually fine. Finally, a HomePod can also acts as a hulk speakerphone for calls done by an iPhone, that works surprisingly well, nonetheless a orator done a really biting buzzing sound for 5 seconds during a finish of a call and we couldn’t figure out why.

Siri can hear we on a HomePod as good as Alexa on an Echo, even over song and sound such as a cooker hood going full blast. Sometimes it listened me even when we suspicion it didn’t, since a shade on tip is formidable to see from distance, call Siri to follow adult with an “uh huh?” when we remained silent. we mostly found that Siri was too loud, though, sepulchral out of a HomePod when sensitively listening to music. Its volume is related to that of a music, nonetheless during 20% volume or reduction Siri was too biting and there was no approach to make it quieter.

Playing Christina Milian instead of Arctic Monkeys



The HomePod’s rubber feet comes with a informed logo. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for a Guardian

Siri’s healthy denunciation interpretation still lags behind a foe too, utterly Google’s Assistant. Generally Siri is right about 70% of a time, with some comical accidents when requesting music, such as seeking for AM by Arctic Monkeys and removing AM to PM by Christina Milian or, some-more bafflingly, removing Eye of a Tiger when seeking for “Fauna – Original Mix”.

I asked for “Glaciers by Blue Sky Black Death” and got Glass by Incubus, while it took 3 goes to get Siri to play Euphoric Tape II by a same band, forcing me to listen to snippets of pointless songs in a process. Once it finally managed to play Euphoric Tape II, it afterwards refused to play possibly Euphoric Tape we or Euphoric Tape III, always delinquent to a second of a group’s 3 albums.

Siri routinely got there in a finish after mixed attempts, nonetheless it was positively frustrating. You can control a HomePod with a Music app on an iOS device, that we resorted to for all nonetheless general requests for genre, playlists or artists, nonetheless confusingly there are dual ways to send song to a HomePod in a same app.

The HomePod doesn’t support Bluetooth streaming and doesn’t have an analogue line-in, nonetheless does support Apple’s AirPlay. You can send audio from apps, including Spotify, that exercise AirPlay nonetheless we remove any modernized audio control by Siri, singular to volume, postponement and skip. Your iPhone or iPad needs to sojourn on and connected to a same wifi network too, as it is a passage by that a audio flows.



To send song to a HomePod from a Music app on a iPhone we have to name AirPlay, daub on a bottom bubble, afterwards slip a now personification mirror down so we can name a song we want. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for a Guardian

With a Music app, however, we can also indoctrinate a HomePod to go directly to iTunes or Apple Music to play tracks, that works some-more like Spotify Connect – your phone doesn’t have to be on all a time for it to continue playing. The difficulty is a approach we do that isn’t immediately obvious. You have to open a now personification dialogue, daub on a AirPlay symbol and afterwards wait for a HomePod to uncover adult as a apart burble next a now personification bubble, that also lists a HomePod as an outlay nonetheless around AirPlay.

The biggest obstacle of a HomePod is how sealed down it is to Apple’s inclination and services. You have to have an iPhone, iPod hold or iPad using iOS 11.2.5 to set it up. It will usually play song natively from Apple Music, iTunes purchases or iTunes Match, definition no radio other than Beats One, and it can usually be tranquil from an iOS 11.2.5 device. You can AirPlay audio to it from an Apple TV, a Mac or iTunes on a Windows PC, or from apps on an iOS device, including from Spotify or similar, nonetheless that’s no good to anyone with an Android device – an emanate for any domicile that isn’t homogeneously Apple.

Expansive, pleasing sound



The multiple of 7 tweeters and a woofer creates it a honestly illusory listening experience. Photograph: Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

While Siri competence not be a utterly adult to blemish compared to a rivals, and removing non-Apple Music to it is some-more difficult, one thing Apple has nailed is a HomePod’s sound. The HomePod sounds honestly illusory for anything from hip-hop and EDM to stone and classical. There’s no adjusting a song to your ambience – it’s Apple’s approach or a high approach – nonetheless a sound is low though being overburdened with murky bass, light though being biting and with good separation, definition we can collect out particular voices, instruments or records easily. Nothing gets lost, while all stays rich, full of appetite and ambience. It even sounds brilliantly full operation during volumes as low as 5%, that is something many competitors destroy to do.

Apple says a multiple of 7 tweeters and a woofer, all tranquil by a A8 processor, ceaselessly adjust to a position of a orator in a room and a song it is playing. The outcome is a surprisingly far-reaching and enveloping soundscape from a mono orator that puts a foe to shame. It sounds usually as good opposite a wall as it does in a center of a kitchen table. But it’s value observant that since a sound is reduction direct, it carries serve in directions we competence not wish it to, that competence provoke a neighbours.

Observations

  • The volume buttons on a tip change a turn by 5%, nonetheless voice requests for volume changes change a turn in 10% increments – we can mention a certain percentage, with decimals dull up, so “volume turn 12.5%” became 13%
  • HomePod works usually excellent with iTunes Match, including song we have uploaded that isn’t in a Apple Music library, definition we don’t need an Apple Music subscription if all we wish to listen to is your possess song library
  • Setup is elementary – place a unbarred iOS device with Bluetooth and wifi on nearby a HomePod, wait for a setup discourse box to cocktail adult and after a integrate of taps it’s prepared to go (although it unsuccessful during a wifi setup a initial time we tried)
  • Siri was flattering biting out of a box, so make certain we don’t set it adult during night or be prepared with a finger on a volume down button
  • Apple’s earnest an refurbish for AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing of dual HomePods together for after in a year by a program update
  • You can tongue-tied a always-listening mics, nonetheless there’s no manifest indicator that Siri is no longer listening

Price

The Apple HomePod comes in dual colours, white or space grey (black) for £319.

For comparison, a second-generation Amazon Echo costs £90, a Echo Plus costs £140, a Google Home costs £129 and a Alexa-integrated Sonos One costs £199.

Verdict

As a elementary wireless orator a HomePod sounds truly brilliant, knocking a hosiery off many of a competition, including systems costing more. But since it is sealed down to Apple-only inclination and services it competence not be as easy to fit into your existent setup as competitors such as Sonos. Missing loyal Spotify support will be a understanding torpedo for many, as will a inability to play radio stations and a miss of multi-user support.

As a intelligent speaker, a HomePod is let down by Siri, that simply isn’t adult to a standards set by rivals, nonetheless a fundamentals are there. The microphones work, so Siri can hear you, and responses are fast, usually limited, definition it could be fixed. Whether Apple is means to locate adult to a capability and peculiarity of Alexa and Google Assistant, stays to be seen. It positively hasn’t managed to on a iPhone for a final integrate of years.

So as it is now, a HomePod is an Apple-lover’s dream speaker; if we provide it some-more as a voice-controlled wireless song blaster than a Amazon Echo or Google Home aspirant afterwards you’ll adore it.

But if we wish a ability to play Spotify natively, to control some-more than usually a singular series of HomeKit devices, or to simply broach that modernized voice partner experience, a HomePod isn’t there yet.

Pros: shining sound, can hear we really well, full prolongation during low volumes, choice of masculine or womanlike voice

Cons: Siri not adult to scratch, no Bluetooth or analogue audio in, no local Spotify or radio, no Android or Windows support

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