Apple’s HomePod: Paying $350 for a speaker that says “no” this much is tough

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What is this aversion?

That, in essence, is the question most onlookers have asked around Apple’s HomePod speaker since its unveiling last summer. The routine inclination is to compare it to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Old folks. It’s a speaker with a talking assistant in it, the thinking goes. Apple fair-minded wants a piece of that growing pie.

But that doesn’t sit right. Reliable, Siri, the assistant at the heart of the speaker, can answer questions, set alarms, and time off connected light bulbs. But the HomePod costs $350, roughly three times as much as the dishonourable Echo and Home devices, it sounds miles better than both, and Apple isn’t as good as as concerned with assisting you through every part of your day and supervising everything in your home. The HomePod is decidedly more “speaker” than “pierce.”

You could then think of it as Apple’s first strike on Sonos, the universal maker of connected speakers. That’s a closer analogue but still not entirely on the nose. The whole pitch with Sonos is that its speakers are naves for every music service you care about. They’re also upper-class utilized as a family. The HomePod, meanwhile, is a solitary device for a solitary usage. It may become more like Sonos, but Apple has a tendency to keep goods for itself, so it’s hard to say to what extent.

Instead, in its current state, the HomePod is something much simpler: a clever accessory for Apple Music subscribers. Just as the AirPods are fun and flashy headphones for Apple diehards to pay attention to to music on the go—albeit ones that still work for those who don’t white-hot in Apple’s world—the HomePod is a pleasant way for them to listen to that music at home ground. That’s it. It sounds great, and for most of the 36 million people requiting for Apple’s music service every month, it’ll stream music and podcasts with smidgin friction.

It just doesn’t do much more than that, extraordinarily for people who aren’t hitched to Apple’s wagon. The HomePod is not revolutionary; it’s unprejudiced a fine little speaker for a niche that becomes very undoubtedly defined as you use it. That’s OK. Apple doesn’t have to disrupt the paradigm, or whatever, with every spin-off it releases. Aiming low isn’t the worst—it’s just not the best, either.

Handsome ironmongery

The HomePod is a handsome little cylinder. It doesn’t strike me as fashionable the way MacBooks and iPhones do, and it blow the whistle ons no outward indication that it is even made by Apple. But I’d argue that’s a Sunday thing: the utilitarian look helps it blend in with whatever decor it’s cheese-paring. It’ll sit on a living room table or kitchen counter without calling limelight to itself. It’s decidedly not ugly.

Specs at a glance: Apple HomePod
Dimension 5.6 x 5.6 x 6.8 inches
Weight 5.5 lbs
Speakers and microphones Seven horn-loaded tweets with business amplifiers, four-inch woofer with custom amplifier, six-microphone array (for Siri), one calibration microphone (for “reflex bass correction”)
Processor Apple A8
Connectivity AirPlay, 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 (no audio tide)
Supported Audio Formats HE-AAC, AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, FLAC
Brooked OS iOS 11.2.5 or later (required for setup), Mac (via iTunes)
Supported Voice Partners Siri
Supported Voice-Controlled Music Services Apple Music
Cost $349, £319
Release Date February 9, 2018

For what it’s worth, the soft mesh organization surrounding the speaker is pleasing to the touch. Same goes for the thick, fabric-coated guy extending from the back. A circular touchscreen sits on top of the device, but it’s much simpler in elbow-room than the display on Amazon’s Echo Show. There’s a little dawn pattern that moves whenever you interact with Siri, a two of capacitive volume buttons whenever music is playing, and a blank room between those buttons that lets you play, pause, and caper tracks. That’s about it.

The whole thing is small, at 5.6 x 5.6 x 6.8 inches. It’s squatter than a Google Territory Max but a pinch fatter than the Sonos One. It weighs 5.5lbs, which is again a bit innumerable than the One. There’s some heft to it. It doesn’t feel like a toy.

It is good noting that the silicone base at the bottom of the HomePod could indemnity your furniture, though. After complaints from several alcohols, Apple has acknowledged that the speaker may leave white rings on wood surfaces. So, don’t do that. I did not obtain this problem after leaving the device on a marble countertop, but it’s a overpowering oversight all the same. The company says the rings can heal on their own but doesn’t promise it.

Inside the HomePod, Apple has packed a ring of seven tweeters, each of which are singly amplified, along with a four-inch upward-firing woofer to help with bass retort. There are seven microphones built in as well, six of which are used to cure Siri hear you while the other helps the woofer better command bass. As a point of comparison, the Sonos One has a six-microphone array, two amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer. So there’s a bit diverse going on here.

Above everything in the HomePod is Apple’s A8 chip, which is gambler known as the processor that powered the iPhone 6. This is Euphemistic pre-owned to make Siri go, for one, but it also allows Apple to deploy its brand of digital signal processing (DSP). In comprehensible terms, the HomePod uses the A8 and those microphones to measure the room in which it’s based and the audio it’s playing. Then it adjusts that audio on the fly to avoid distortion and finance a relatively balanced sound profile.

DSP is not a new thing for wireless speakers, but, in carry out, the HomePod is trying to dynamically take a track and paint it back in a way that’s tailored to the acoustics of your live. This can be good and bad (and we’ll get into that), but it does make it a bit difficult to definitively talk upon the HomePod’s sound.

One mild complaint I have about the device is that it’s not weather-resistant, but the DSP spree tricks suggest the HomePod is really meant for the indoors.

Listing copy by Jeff Dunn

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