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Apple’s HomePod Arrives in the UK- But Is It Any Good?

February 10, 2018, 8:00 AM
  • High end version of Amazon and Google’s smart speakers
  • Praised for audio quality
  • Apple predicted to have success with it despite high price tag
Apple has released a new smart speaker, but is the high price tag worth it? Image:Getty

HomePod, Apple’s new smart home speaker, has gone on sale in the UK today.

The £319 speaker is marketed as a high end version of Amazon and Google’s popular devices, and uses Apple’s virtual assistant Siri to carry out voice commands.

The device was due to be launched in December for Christmas, however Apple delayed the release, saying it needed “a little more time” on the speaker.

After the huge success of Apple’s iPhone X and iPhone 8, the HomePod is also predicted to be popular.

Phil Schiller from Apple said, “HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple.

“It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalogue and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple beautiful design that is so much fun to use.

“We’re so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes to hear it for themselves.

“We think they will be blown away by the audio quality.”

The HomePod comes with a significantly higher price tag than the rival devices.

It retails at £319, whereas the Amazon Echo is £75, and Google Home is £129.

If you’re thinking of getting one but want to wait for a lower price, you might be waiting a while, the predicted popularity means it will probably keep a high price, and Apple rarely do sales when the price could drop.

Industry analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight believes that Apple will still have success with the device, despite the high price tag.

He said, “Apple is clearly targeting the HomePod at a very different part of the market compared to Amazon and Google.

“It is primarily designed to listen to music, and more specifically it is optimised for Apple Music.

“Although there are some additional capabilities that are offered via Siri, the features are merely a subset of rival products.

“Despite these limitations, I expect the product to be extremely popular.”

So how does Apple’s product compare to its rivals?

Apple has a more powerful audio technology, which is the main reason for the higher price.

Google Home has one speaker, and the Amazon Echo has one woofer and one tweeter, whereas the HomePod has a large woofer and seven tweeters, which brings the sound output on a much higher quality level than other smart home devices.

But despite the impressive music set-up, the HomePod does have limitations.

The HomePod is only compatible with Apple Music, whereas rival devices also support music services such as Spotify.

The HomePod also doesn’t have functions that Amazon and Google’s devices do, such as the ability to run more than one timer at once, being able to stream live radio, or being able to provide recipe details when asked.

Siri has also been criticised by reviewers for lacking the natural flow of Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, sounding more robot than human.

You’ll also need an existing Apple device for it to work.

In order to set up the HomePod, you’ll need an iOS device running the most recent version of the software (iOS 11.2.5).

You’ll need a connection via Apple’s AirPlay technology to connect the device to the internet, and then link it to an Apple Music account to stream.

Which device is best?

Apple’s device is mainly limited due to how locked in it is to Apple’s own ecosystem of products.

Anyone who is considering a HomePod must currently be an Apple device user, and be willing to commit to only using Apple Music as their streaming service.

This is a big ask for a product that is inferior in term of virtual assistant.

If you’re looking for a device that is primarily for music, then the HomePod is the best device to get.

But if you want a smart device to run your home, you should consider Amazon or Google.

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