Ok Apple. You’re late.

We are now finally able to order a Homepod from Apple for the 9th February. Apple is late to the smart speaker scene. In fact, it’s, missed it’s own target of releasing it’s new product in November 2017. This is a small embarrassment however: the Amazon Echo launched in the US a whole 3 years earlier on 6th November 2014.

It even looks like it has been rushed too. Features like AirPlay 2 won’t be available with this product out of the box, meaning that you can’t have 2 connected in a stereo pair, like you can in the Alexa-enabled Kitsound Voice One. Features like this will be available in a software update later apparently.

It seems Apple has just launched this product to stop Amazon dominating the smart speaker market, which they are doing incredibly well – 70% of all smart speakers in the US are from Amazon. The HomePod is an option for people who like the Apple ecosystem of products.

How does it compare?

From the start, the functionality of the Homepod does seem a little sparse compared to Alexa or the Google Assistant. In their press release, Apple say:

HomePod is great at playing your music. But it can also tell you the latest news, traffic, sport and weather. Set reminders and tasks. Send messages. Hand off phone calls. And HomePod is a hub for controlling your smart home accessories — from a single light bulb to the whole house — with just your voice.

That leaves us a little unimpressed as far as smart assistants go.  All of this can be done with Alexa and the Google Assistant at the fraction of the price – nearly 10% of the price if you bought an Echo Dot in the Black Friday sales. Sure, we hope the HomePod will have good sound quality, and it needs to have good sound quality.

It’s £319. Why not buy an Alexa-compatible Sonos 1 smart speaker that’s compatible with Alexa voice control? In fact you could buy 2 good quality bluetooth speakers for that price and be able to stream from other music services. Yes, the HomePod can only be used with an Apple Music subscription.

One reason you may like the HomePod is because of its looks and appearance, and that’s consistent with all Apple products of course (minus the notch), but a Sonos 1 doesn’t look particularly ugly as such.

Hey Siri.  Heyy Siri.  SIRI.  HEY SIRI.  Hey Siri.

Now, no one is going to say that Siri is the best voice assistant in a smart phone out there. The fact that Siri hasn’t got any better lately (Apple says it’s always improving) does make us question whether the voice assistant’s unreliable speech-to-text translation was one of the reasons why Apple hasn’t created any more skills for it. Developers, like us, are unable to create custom ‘skills’ or ‘actions’ for the platform, unless we have an existing iOS app.

Google Assistant wins hands down at voice recognition, followed closely by Alexa. Siri has become notoriously difficult to use because of its unpredictable results.

It’s still going to sell though (and sell well).

🐑🐑🐑

Apple products always sell well, so we expect this will be no different but perhaps not as well as Google Home or Amazon Alexa products. Apple has a great customer base with half of smartphones being an iPhone, and leaves great potential for people who want to seamlessly pair their smart speaker with their phone. But unless there’s significant upgrades to Siri over the next few weeks, we won’t be getting one for the office.