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Homepod Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

Apple is beginning to sell its Homepod this week, a device that is directly competing with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home.

How does the Homepod compare to these competitors? A first wave of hands-on reviews offers some clues, with many reviewers giving the device high notes for its audio quality. However, many also had some serious concerns about the Homepod’s smarts, and its exclusive tie-in with Apple’s services.

The Verge’s Nilay Patel really liked the Homepod’s smart sound features, which tune bass response and directional audio based on both the music it is playing as well as its room placement. But he lamented that Homepod users can’t ask the device to play music from Spotify or Sirius XM, and seemed baffled that Siri on the Homepod wasn’t even able to set two timers at once. Patel’s verdict:

“The Homepod sounds incredible, but not so world-bendingly amazing that you should switch away from Spotify, or accept Siri’s frustrating limitations as compared to Alexa. Apple’s ecosystem lock-in is actively working against a remarkable product with the Homepod.”

Techcrunch’s Matthew Panzarino praised the speaker’s sound, but remarked that it didn’t get as loud as some competing products. He liked quizzing Siri about musical information, and noted that the speaker’s microphones were “exceptionally well” at catching voice commands. His final verdict on the Homepod was more or less coming down to whether consumers use Apple Music or not:

“If you don’t like Apple Music, don’t buy a Homepod. The Homepod sounds great but on the surface, it’s debatable whether it’s great enough to justify the limitations. (…) However, if you’re an Apple Music subscriber, the equation instantly plops in the other direction: it’s near useless to buy any other speaker and this one sounds great, so why not.”

BuzzFeed’s Nicole Nguyen liked the tight integration with the iPhone, Siri’s voice recognition, and the ability to send texts and Whatsapp messages with her voice. She also enjoyed the sound, but noted that it wasn’t necessarily the breakthrough speaker it’s set out to be, at least not for every musical taste and environment. And she took some issue with the $349 price tag:

“The Homepod is a hard sell when you consider the price and flexibility of its competitors. The Homepod is designed for someone with 100% Apple product buy-in, who lives in the iOS/Mac ecosystem, who subscribes to Apple Music, and who just wants basic smart speaker features.”

USA Today’s Ed Baig found that the Homepod sounded very similar to Google’s Home Max speaker, while lacking in the smarts department. But as an iPhone user, he liked the speaker nonetheless:

“Homepod may be a latecomer on the smart loudspeaker scene, but Apple’s entry onto the dance floor is about to liven up the party. At least for well-heeled Apple die-hards who share my passion for all kinds of music.”

The New York Times’ Brian X. Chen on the other hand was pretty underwhelmed by the Homepod, noting that the device didn’t know how to help him with basic kitchen tasks, couldn’t order an Uber and kept serving up music he didn’t like. “Don’t rush to buy it,” he advised:

“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.”

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