The Apple HomePod is on sale today and there are some good reasons to buy one, but there are just as many reasons not to buy Apple’s first smart speaker. We’ll walk you through what you need to know before you buy the HomePod and help you make the right decision for you.
Originally announced in June 2017 at WWDC, the HomePod slipped past the fall release date and is finally on sale. The HomePod arrives in stores in February, but you’ll need to wait for a software update to unlock all features later this year. If you plan to buy two HomePods, the biggest missing feature is the ability to pair two devices in “stereo”.
Depending on who you ask, the HomePod is one of two things. It’s either a HiFi speaker designed to deliver amazing sound in any room by measuring the room and adjusting the sound profile accordingly, or it’s the second coming of Siri. As Google looks to add Google Assistant to screens and Amazon takes over anything with a microphone Siri is coming to a smart speaker, but you need a $120 a year subscription to get the full value out of the HomePod.
Is the Apple HomePod Worth It?
Based on the early reviews the HomePod nails the audio performance, Siri is competent and can hear you over loud music, but there are a lot of catches for a $350 speaker.
We’ll walk through the reasons to buy the Apple HomePod and why some users should wait until new features are added or look at other devices like speakers from Sonos, or Alexa and Google Home products.
No matter how good the HomePod sounds I am not buying one since I don’t want to spend $120 a year to get the full benefit from the device. A smart speaker is a dumb speaker if you have to use your phone and AirPlay 2 to stream music to it with Spotify. Apple specifically forbids Spotify from adding in Siri control so that Apple has an edge over the competition, despite offering a less useful music service.
My coworker is planning to buy the Apple HomePod because he wants something better than his Bose Soundlink Mini to fill his condo and his girlfriend has an Apple Music subscription that he plans to link to the device. He likes the connectivity it has to Apple’s ecosystem, even though he has no smart home gadgets.
If you love Apple Music, live fully inside the Apple ecosystem and want a smart speaker reading your text messages to you, this might be for you. Here’s a look at both sides of the spectrum.
Buy the HomePod for Excellent Audio
If you are looking for an amazing audio experience in your home, the HomePod could be exactly what you are looking for. All of the reviewers with early access say that this sounds very good. The Amazon Echo and the Google Home sound good, but the HomePod elevates sound to another level. Keep in mind the Google Home Max and the Sonos 1 both offer sound that will be close, but apple has a trick with the HomePod.
The microphones in the HomePod measure the room to figure out the best way to play sound for an immersive experience that is tuned specifically to your home. Google and Amazon devices do not do this with their microphones.
This kind of feature is found on high end audio setups, and it allows users to get a very impressive home audio experience in a room without professionally calibrating or diving deep into settings. I performed a similar setup with my Dolby Atmos receiver for watching movies.
On Medium Lance Ulanoff describes the audio, "The matrix of audio components is not inconsequential. In my listening party, songs like Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You picked apart the track, letting me hear both Sheeran’s guitar picking and the clarity of his voice. It was like he was playing in a small café for an audience of me. The bass notes on songs like Gregory Porter’s Holding On and Airana Grande’s Side by Side were deep and resonant."
He goes on to say the Stereo pairing sounded even better, but that's not a feature you will get on day one.