Apple's HomePod officially goes on sale today, with online sales of the devices expected to arrive next week. One, a home speaker that Apple hopes will "reinvent home music" and 2, an intelligent home assistant to help perform tasks such as playing music, reading the news, sending and receiving iMessages, setting reminders, providing answers to general questions, checking the weather and more. At least for well-heeled Apple die-hards who share my passion for all kinds of music. But while Apple stores may be in short supply of the speaker, you're likely to have more luck at the many third-party retailers also offering the curvy speaker. The sound quality is tops and design is attractive, but with a heftier price tag, lack of partnerships with companies like Spotify and Uber, and Siri's inability to be truly useful right now, it's more of an Apple aspiration than a product ready for the prime time. Customers can place an order for the HomePod directly from Apple's online store, or purchase it from any nearby Apple Store.
For audiophiles, the HomePod is built like a tank with a woofer, a custom amplifier and seven tweeters to provide a rich range of sound, according to reviews from TechCrunch, the Verge and the New York Times. The HomePod also works only with iOS devices.
In my own home, I have Amazon's Echo Dot system. Siri on HomePod focused on doing a few things well for the individual and the communal family of the house, and from my experience, it did those things well. The voice assistant works as a DJ as it progressively learns more about it user's taste in music.
Two key HomePod features aren't available initially and will be added in a pair of software updates this year, Apple said.
The HomePod does have features the Amazon Echo or Google Home don't, such as the ability to play podcasts at a faster speed or use voice to send iMessages and WhatsApp texts, according to Buzzfeed's Nicole Nguyen.
The compact HomePod comes in two colors: white and space gray.
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The set-up process is less cumbersome than for the Echo or Google Home, which use a companion app and require some WiFi network selection. Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do.
Voice recognition is obviously critical in any Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home comparison, and it will be disappointing for potential Apple consumers that Siri is somewhat behind the other two intelligent operating systems here as well.
"Indeed, the perception out there is that Siri, despite being on tens of millions of iPhones and the first virtual assistant to make a name for itself, just isn't as smart or useful as Alexa and the Google Assistant".
Now if only Sonos had made the playlist in Apple Music, so Siri could play it on the HomePod. At times, not only did HomePod respond, but so did Siri on my nearby iPhone.