Krzysztof is a lifelong future tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.
What's the Apple HomePod?
The Apple HomePod is a Siri-based speaker that delivers amazing audio, spatial recognition, and has a delicate mesh design.
The gadget is Apple's answer to Amazon's line of Echo speakers and competitors like the Google Home.
Some of the hardware features inside the HomePod include seven tweeters, a company designed 4-inch woofer, and six microphones targeted to pick up voice commands.
Additional Apple HomePod perks include:
- Mesh fitted for the 6.8" tall Mac Pro inspired speaker
- An LED display on the top showcasing touch controls
- A8 chip to power the device
- Direct link with Apple Music
- Control of all HomeKit devices
- "Hey Siri" function to answer questions/commands
With so many perks and features, the Apple HomePod is quite impressive and a lot of Apple fans have jumped on board.
Unfortunately most consumers aren't fans of the will likely stay away from its $299 price tag ($199 when discounted) when there are numerous, inexpensive smart speakers available.
Apple's Echo Dot Challenger
However even Apple might have been aware of the high price, which is why it introduced the HomePod Mini as an Echo Dot counteroffer. The spherical mesh fabric mini comes in white or space gray, is just over 3" tall, and weighs 3/4 of a pound.
It's capable of multi-room audio, has HomeKit & AirPlay support and works with Apple Music/Podcasts, your iCloud music library, and other 3rd party apps. It uses 4 mics for far-field voice recognition and has touch controls to play/pause music, adjust volume, skip tracks, and activate Siri.
The Mini is available for $99, which is a more affordable alternative than its predecessor particularly if you're part of the Apple ecosystem.
The Apple HomePod Is Expensive
At $299 Apple is still struggling to compete against similar devices and sadly being a third option rarely works out in the tech world.
The HomePod has become more of a niche product since most people can't afford such an expensive device despite Apple's cache and notoriety.
Their smart speaker experiment is set to fall behind their more innovative launches though it's possible they'll come back to the forefront like their Apple Watch did.
As for this market, Apple will be a distant third in the smart speaker category with Google and Amazon fully in control (in the US at least).
Amazon Echo 2nd Generation
Amazon's next gen speakers have upped the ante, and will hold down competitors like Apple for months if not years.
The new Echos have greater sound quality, better far-field mics, and customizable designs like the Google Home.
With other Alexa enabled speakers like the Sonos One available, it only makes sense for Amazon to improve on their own speaker.
The main selling point will be the lower price.
Amazon didn't have to upgrade their original Echo but with so many smart speakers on the horizon, it doesn't hurt to transform their once premium item.
The set of new features in Amazon's Next Gen Echos include:
- Smaller, sleeker design with rounded edges
- Spherical design for 4th Gen Echo/Echo Dot
- Cloth-like shell vs. the original's plastic exterior
- Additional tweeters for better sound quality
- Advanced far-field microphone software/hardware
- Much lower $99.99 cost vs. $179.99 for original
Amazon's goal for the new Echos was to make them look great, sound better, and still be affordable for the standard customer.
Those improvements along with a near monopoly of the smart speaker market are enough to push the Apple HomePod to the side.
Apple's Main Focus Is the iPhone
No matter how many products Apple comes up with (Apple TV, Apple Watch, etc.) they will always be known for the iPhone.
Since most of the company's profit comes from their smartphone collection, it makes sense that they'll use most of their resources on them instead of newer innovations.
Apple heavily focuses on their OS and subsequent ecosystem, which is excellent for iPhone users but not enough to bring new people in. Luckily for Apple they have a huge consumer audience that they profit from.
In fact the company is so profitable that they don't need to create a smart speaker. Their iPhone line-up alone is enough to make them the most profitable brand in the world.
So while the HomePod was still a strong device, it's gotten sidelined like most of their "other" categories.
The Google Nest Mini
As if a new Echo wasn't enough, Google launched their own versions of the Echo Dot for $35-$49.
The smaller, cheaper mini devices were a way for the brand to capture a larger share of the market and like Amazon, hold-off any new competitor.
Ultimately it appears that the voice-controlled speaker establishment will be dominated by Google and Amazon akin to how Samsung and Apple control the smartphone competition.
Apple can't compete with Google and Amazon because they don't do cheap well.
Google also has a near monopoly of search-engines that they incorporate into their Home's software/Cloud, which may eventually overthrow Alexa and the Echo in total capital.
Which brings me to my last point...
Siri Will Never Be Google
Alexa and Google are still better than Siri.
Siri is so bad that even Apple sidelined their smart assistant when the HomePod was first launched.
The main focus of a "smart "speaker is the AI inside them otherwise it's just another speaker.
It's been proven time and time again that Siri cannot handle basic queries like other assistants can, and there haven't been enough improvement to change that.
Siri has even been slammed by former Apple executives because of how underdeveloped she was, which is a shame since Siri was the first assistant that entered the mainstream.
All signs point to another lackluster assistant in an otherwise beautifully designed speaker that cannot compete with the likes of Google's growing intelligence or Alexa's vast skill-set.
Siri could've been what Bixby is trying to be, an assistant that integrates with the ecosystem/phone, but she even fails at that.
In a world where AI is rapidly taking over, this is one area where Apple fails to shine. It's also the reason why the Amazon Echo and the Google Home will both be better than the Apple HomePod.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on August 11, 2018:
Thank you. I'm sure the HomePod will get a lot better, and it has in some way since I wrote this comparison, but yes it's not Apple's focus right now and I would agree with you.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 02, 2018:
We still have not decided what to use but it looks like the Amazon Echo is where we lean to. Thanks for this comparison. We are Apple users but we agree with you on Siri.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on April 23, 2018:
I don't see Apple winning in this space, their priorities are elsewhere. Yes the HomePod's sound quality is excellent compared to Amazon's or Google's speakers, but that's not the point of a smart speaker and not where voice tech is headed.
I'm very disappointed that Amazon and Google are waging a tech war right now, just think how much more progress we'd have if both companies worked together for the good of consumers. These two companies have so much data available that can be very beneficial for what they're trying to accomplish.
I'm curious to see where we go from here, clearly smart speakers are here to stay.
NikkiRoxi on April 17, 2018:
You wrote this article before the HomePod was actually on sale. Since it is now on the market how do you feel it fares now? I still think it is overpriced and based on some of the hands on videoes I’ve watched on YouTube it still has a way to go before it can give Amazon or Google any real competition. However when it comes to sound quality Amazon doesn’t have any device that truly can compete. Google has the Max, and there Sonos One, but I don’t doubt Amazon probably is working on making a high end speaker too. The HomePod and Google Max are extremely large devices. I wouldn’t know where to place them. If good quality has to come in so large a package I’ll skip and just connect what I have to better sounding Bluetooth speakers. I don’t think Google will overthrow Amazon when it comes to search engines because Google’s search hits are not always accurate. Keep in mind when you are searching via a browser sometimes the best result is not always the top result sometimes you have to scroll the list of hits that you gotu til you find what closely matches what you wanted. Think about when you ask a Google Assistant a question it’s giving the top result only. Depending on what you’ve asked that may not be correct or what you meant. So they both need to work on their search results to be more accurate. What happens is that you are less likely to a response like I don’t know that one from Google, but is what you got correct? I do want Amazon and Microsoft to beef up Bing, but they must work together.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on September 16, 2017:
I'm flattered thank you so much.
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 11, 2017:
This is very well reasoned in explaining why Apple will merely be an also ran. You obviously know your technology.