Apple's HomePod: What you need to know before buying one

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The HomePod, which was released today, costs $349. They're all abstract pieces that say little specific about Apple's smart speaker. At least for well-heeled Apple die-hards who share my passion for all kinds of music.

Apple stores and retailers such as BestBuy start selling the speaker today. Amazon and Google have had longer to establish voice recognition in their devices, thus it is perhaps not surprising that the Apple HomePod is inferior in quality here. From this perspective, uninsured Apple users basically get a discount on a like-new HomePod. "It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, lovely design that is so much fun to use".

Entering the smart speaker market where the likes of and already operate, Apple's HomePod that comprises a high-excursion woofer equipped with a custom-engineered amplifier, an array of seven tweeters - each of which has its own amplifier and a transducer, and six microphones. Compared to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the HomePod certainly wins the sound test, making the latter two sound "muffled and tinny in comparison", wrote Brian X. Chen of the New York Times. The HomePod's Siri makes the iPhone's Siri look like a genius.

There are several different types of portable speakers to choose from in any price range, but consumers looking for smart speakers have been limited to Google and Amazon.

It's covered in a soft grill material that comes in Space Gray or White. It will support multiple voice services, launching with Amazon Alexa, but will add Siri using AirPlay 2, and Google Assistant, in 2018. An Apple spokesperson promised us that the functions will be "coming this year in a free software update".

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- Do I need an existing Apple device for it to work? Google's Assistant is also found on its smartphones, while Apple naturally enough relies on the Siri system that is resident in the iconic iPhone series.

In contrast, HomePod set-up begins simply by holding your iOS device close to the speaker, this then automatically sets-up the device, including syncing Apple Music account and WiFi network information.

The Google Home Max works with Google Assistant. Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do.

"Indeed, the perception out there is that Siri, despite being on tens of millions of iPhones and the first virtual assistant to make a name for itself, just isn't as smart or useful as Alexa and the Google Assistant". Siri on the HomePod can't differentiate between voices or handle calendar tasks, like the competition, according to CNET.

Now if only Sonos had made the playlist in Apple Music, so Siri could play it on the HomePod. At times, not only did HomePod respond, but so did Siri on my nearby iPhone.

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