Monday, 24 September, 2018

Apple HomePod is already losing the smart speaker battle

Reviewers love HomePod's loud, bass-y sound, but hate how dumb Siri is Apple HomePod is already losing the smart speaker battle
| 11 February, 2018, 05:40

After failing to capitalize on the lead it had on voice assistants by launching Siri back in 2011, Apple appears to have missed a big opportunity with Siri yet again with HomePod. "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.

For one, Siri is just not smart enough to compete with Amazon's Alexa or Google's Home assistant, creating frustrations for reviewers. As such, each player has its own advantages. The HomePod also works only with iOS devices. The HomePod, which was released today, costs $349.

HomePod is a new wireless speaker with built-in Siri controls by Apple. Apple has been using the service quite a bit for advertising, most recently running ads for the Homepod - but 18 months after joining Twitter, Apple still hasn't sent out even a single tweet. Each of these devices is compatible with three major ecosystems, meaning that smart home support is pretty standard across the device range. "Alexa and Google Assistant do have more features, for now, and they are definitely more advanced in their functionality".

While the store was busy and noisy at Michigan Avenue, I was impressed by how well HomePod's audio came across. Although all three speakers enable key functions such as checking weather conditions, setting times and alarms, voice calling, and other basic features to be carried out smoothly, there is still room for improvement in both the Apple and Google systems.

The share of Google Home is projected at 21.6%, ranking the second.


Siri does best at music: It can summon songs, make playlists ("play 80s party music"), and offer factoids about songs.

Alexa is accessible through some third-party devices such as speakers (although to a lesser extent than Assistant or Cortana) and will soon be available.

Using a variation of a Spotify meme that blew up a year ago, Sonos trolled Apple on HomePod launch day by calling it the "Fruit Machine" (via Business Insider).

That is not to say that the Amazon Echo is a bad system in this department, far from it, but the Google Home voice recognition capability is superior to either of its competitors. CEO Tim Cook even misspoke during Apple's recent earnings call when he said that you could summon Siri on HomePod to hail a Lyft or Uber. I found that when music was at a high volume, HomePod generally heard my "Hey Siri" voice commands from across the room, a good thing. Sonos is now offering a truly stereo pair of Sonos One speakers for $349 to directly challenge the HomePod at the same price point. Apple has marketed the HomePod as a smart "musicologist" for the home since it was revealed at the Worldwide Developers Conference last June in San Jose. And any software makers that are allowed into Apple's walled garden have to custom develop their products for the underlying Apple platform but can't even deploy them across all devices.

HomePod does stack favorably on price against the $399 Google Home Max speaker with the Google Assistant that I reviewed positively in December.

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