Apple's HomePod User Guide Tells You Everything About the Smart Speaker

Apple will launch its smart speaker HomePod in Australia this week after more than six years in development

The United Kingdom is the second of Apple's three launch countries to begin deliveries, in-store pick-ups and sales of HomePod.

Apple's new HomePod speaker has launched in the United Kingdom - the technology giant's take on the smart speaker market now dominated by Amazon and Google. Vocals were pure, bass deep.

The Apple speaker was less capable when it came to its integration of the Siri voice assistant, according to some reviews. You can also wake it up from across the room by saying "Hey, Siri".

And while you can use HomePod as a speakerphone, Siri on the new speaker cannot initiate the call.

The Apple Home Pod smart speaker inside the Cupertino lab in which it was developed
The Apple Home Pod smart speaker inside the Cupertino lab in which it was developed

"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".

Note that the $199 Sonos One is able to use Alexa now, is adding Google Assistant support via a software update in the near future, and will have support for streaming music via Apple's upcoming AirPlay 2, as well.

That's how I was able to play Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, SiriusXM and other services through the speaker, without any assistance from Siri. "It was better at hearing me over loud music than my other smart speakers, and very good at hearing me from across rooms with weird echoes", said The Verge's Nilay Patel.

USA Today: "Apple has opened up Siri to developers, but the feature set for HomePod and Siri is more narrow - you might send messages by voice or consult your grocery list, but the list of third-party apps that are compatible with HomePod are relatively thin, including LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Skype for iPhone and Evernote". Moreover, many people expressed interest in the products of Apple's competitors for a number of reasons.

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To put it to test, I sampled an eclectic mix of music: a lineup of artists that included Sinatra, Springsteen, Santana and Sia. Multiple studies, including one reported by The New York Times, demonstrate that listening to music can enhance focus, improve creativity, and boost productivity. Siri needs to be better everywhere, and really excellent on screenless devices like HomePod, particularly when you're posing a series of questions about the same topic.

There are no bones about it; HomePod is a superb wireless audio speaker. With a well-designed woofer and dynamic processing, the device delivers quality sound and is more than up to such rigors. The HomePod, which was released today, costs $349. HomePod is unique in that it doesn't have a singular place where it sounds the best. The speaker is 7.4 inches high and weighs 11.7 pounds. It costs just $199.

HomePod is available now in white and space grey, for $499, from the Apple website and in stores. The idea is to turn them into a neat stereo pair. However, the multi-room audio feature won't be available until later this year through an update. You might, for example, ask Siri to play classical musical in the basement at the same time you play the blues in the kitchen.

The Sonos One wireless speaker, priced at $199, will be available October 24.

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So can Siri take on Alexa?

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. Until now, Google Home Max was the sweetest sounding smart speaker I've listened to. They're all abstract pieces that say little specific about Apple's smart speaker.

Siri data is retained - to help tailor music recommendations and other actions - but only on your device, not on Apple's central servers. Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do.

My out of the box set-up experience was seamless. It also senses when it is being moved to another location in the house.

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My other quibble has to do with a hard challenge for Apple. But sometimes perhaps too good. "Siri doesn't even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone".

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