Apple's HomePod Is Not The Smartest Of The Smart Speakers
Apple's HomePod Is Not The Smartest Of The Smart Speakers
Apple Homepod is now on sale – Siri-powered tunes are headed your way
10 February, 2018, 03:20
Unlike any smart speaker, it focuses primarily on music playback, offering advanced audio engineering techniques that promises to deliver high-fidelity sound wherever it's placed in the house.
The competition isn't just through the sound quality of the speaker - but the other things that users can do with it. Yes, it does come equipped with Siri, which has gotten better over the years, but as it stands, Alexa and Google Assistant remain far more deft at responding to commands and offer wider arrays of functionalities. And given Apple's tendency to reject open connections to other company's systems, it may find it has some serious catching up to do. Also, the primary service on HomePod is Apple Music.
By contrast, the assistants in three other smart speakers that we've tried at the CRN Test Center-Alexa in the Amazon Echo, Google Assistant in the Google Home, and Cortana in the Harman Kardon Invoke-are adept at managing calendars. It can now read out recipes, order a pizza, turn on the lights or tell jokes. What is really surprising is that the iOS build part of the smart speaker is actually a beta build.
Google Home, which features the creatively named Google Assistant, can link to multiple Google accounts so you can check your calendar or manage reminders. You can't ask Siri to make a phone call.
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"But Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it. Siri is sorely lacking in capabilities compared with Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant". And Google's speaker incorporates a machine learning-fueled feature called Smart Sound, which Google says dynamically tunes the audio to its new environment within seconds, similar to Apple's spatial awareness feature.
But HomePod isn't really a smart speaker - not yet at least. It can't even set more than one simultaneous timer. WhatsApp is supported by Siri, but beyond that very few apps are. "Siri doesn't even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone".
What's more, Sonos supports more streaming platforms than HomePod, and not only works with Alexa out of the box but also promises to make nice soon with the Google Assistant, and, yes, Siri. While there may not be a battery inside, nor a convenient grab-handle, the compact speaker is certainly easy to pick up and carry to another room.
Apple's decision to restrict HomePod customers to iOS and Apple Music is a strategic effort to keep people embedded in its ecosystem. The sound quality is tops and design is handsome, but with a heftier price tag, lack of partnerships with companies like Spotify and Uber, and Siri's inability to be truly useful right now, it's more of an Apple aspiration than a product ready for the prime time. Apple's delayed release dates made them miss the holiday appeal of consumers. As such, each player has its own advantages. Google is already known for being able to answer nearly any question and help you get from A to B. Microsoft products can be found in nearly every workplace. "Not even Siri can answer whether that will be possible". If Apple continues to stick to its closed system, it's hard to see how it will ever start to win again.
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