Apple enters the business with smart speakers late in the day. But can the HomePod keep up with the competition of Google , Amazon and Co.?
For a few weeks, Apple’s smart speaker is now also available in Germany . At a price of € 349, consumers can now purchase the HomePod since mid-June. In the detailed test proves the speaker that an acquisition can be quite worthwhile. Especially design, sound and handling are convincing, but there are also a few weaknesses.
Even when unpacking it should give the first surprise for most users. The only slightly more than 17 inches high speaker is surprisingly powerful – as well as its sound. The HomePod weighs around 2.5 kilograms, which has a remarkable amount of power for its small size. But one after the other …
First, the speaker must be set up. Typical for Apple , this is actually very easy and quick. Connecting the speaker to the mains and pairing it with your own iPhone or iPad takes less than two minutes. Also a manual is not necessary. Simply hold your unlocked smartphone – with Bluetooth enabled – close to the speaker and follow the instructions on the screen – and the HomePod is ready to go.
But here is also probably the biggest weakness of the speaker at the same time . Without an iOS device, the HomePod simply can not be used. An iPhone or iPad are essential for the setup and use. The speaker is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro , iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, and iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later. The use of stereo pairs requires at least the iOS 11.4 operating system .
Appearance is not everything
The theme of design can be argued as always, but the speaker works alone through its mesh, which extends all around, visually higher quality than many competing models, which usually come in rather boring plastic look. Together with its compact design a very elegant picture is created. The simple design fits seamlessly into the world of Apple devices. Pretty!
The HomePod also scores points in terms of sound. For the size of the speaker , this offers a tremendously punchy sound, to which the competition of Google , Amazon and Co. has to be measured – especially if the speaker is coupled with a second copy. But even the operation of a single HomePod is just fun when listening to music. No matter where the speaker is placed in the room , it adapts to the conditions and automatically optimizes its sound. Of course, as always, users should not expect the brilliance of a high-end system.
Good integration into an existing cosmos
The integration into the Apple cosmos works perfectly and Siri is reliable. In most cases, recognizes the German version of Apple’s language assistant without major problems, the requests. It’s also great that users usually do not have to raise their voice so that their requests are recognized even when the music is playing. The problem however: Other smart speakers are much more open.
If you want to start songs via speech recognition, you must either use the in-house Apple Music or, for example, access songs from the iCloud. Although it is also possible to stream songs from other streaming services such as Spotify or play audiobooks from Audible, but only via smartphone and AirPlay – ie without voice command. Then the HomePod is used practically on the principle of a conventional Bluetooth speaker, but with AirPlay.
Other functionalities such as compatible smart home devices to drive or to ask for the weather largely match those of the competition. Also new commands for performing several actions at the same time can be learned.
In terms of data protection Apple is committed to its customers. The company asserts that “privacy and security are […] fundamental”. Data is therefore encrypted and transmitted anonymously to the servers of Apple – and only after activation by the voice command “Hey Siri”.
Conclusion: Perhaps the HomePod is not necessarily the smartest available speaker with all this, but currently provides the roundest overall experience, if a user is already anchored in the Apple Cosmos.