Apple HomePod Launches With Big Sound-and Even Bigger Questions

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Customers can place an order for the HomePod directly from Apple's online store, or purchase it from any nearby Apple Store. It can be said with some confidence that the gulf in music playback is bigger than the gap between AI capabilities, meaning that Apple gives with one hand arguably more than it takes away with the other. "Apple's engineers designed HomePod to sound the best no matter where you are in the room". Vocals were pure, bass deep.

Apple has released its next foray into the world of smart home devices, setting the bar for audio performance and ushering users into a more relaxed life, with the HomePod wireless speaker. You can also wake it up from across the room by saying "Hey, Siri".

If you don't already have favorite podcasts, mind, HomePod isn't so helpful.

That's how I was able to play Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, SiriusXM and other services through the speaker, without any assistance from Siri. The device is 6.8 inches high and weighs 5.5 pounds.

To put it to test, I sampled an eclectic mix of music: a lineup of artists that included Sinatra, Springsteen, Santana and Sia.

The first reviews of new Apple products always come from people who were selected by the company to receive special briefings and early review hardware. As the result, Tien believes HomePod's limited support for third-party apps will make it harder for HomePod to fully realise the functions of smart speaker.

Check out the full Sonos playlist here and here's how HomePod stacks up with Sonos speakers. The question is: will hardcore music fans embrace voice control the way more casual fans have? It costs just $199. Buyers can choose between near-black Space Gray or off-white White versions, each with a glossy top panel containing + and - touch surfaces and a swirling globe of rainbow colors to indicate when Siri's in use. The idea is to turn them into a neat stereo pair.

HomePod was delayed from its original December release date until today, which initial reports blamed on unspecified software issues, and later reports suggested were due to problems with multi-HomePod synchronization - specifically two units in one room, or more units across a house. Google's Assistant is also found on its smartphones, while Apple naturally enough relies on the Siri system that is resident in the iconic iPhone series.

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

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HomePod does stack favorably on price against the $399 Google Home Max speaker with the Google Assistant that I reviewed positively in December. What do these home assistants think of each other?

From a "smart speaker" perspective, HomePod's strongest suit is its six-microphone array, which can hear you say "Hey Siri" at a distance at a reasonable volume, even when the speakers are loudly playing music. It can't yet control iOS devices or Apple TVs, and it can't distinguish between multiple users' voices.

The device has two main purposes... Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do.

The Google Home Max lets users shop using just their voice.

My out of the box set-up experience was seamless.

Now if only Sonos had made the playlist in Apple Music, so Siri could play it on the HomePod.

My other quibble has to do with a hard challenge for Apple. Siri on the HomePod can't differentiate between voices or handle calendar tasks, like the competition, according to CNET. But sometimes perhaps too good.

Commands such as "Hey Siri, what's the weather like in New York City?" and "Hey Siri, play Kanye West" work without a hitch.

With this being central to the speaker systems, each assistant is more than adequate, but each carries its own advantages and disadvantages.

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