How Apple HomePod Compares With Amazon Echo & Google Home
After much deliberation, Apple is prepared to unleash its HomePod smart speaker upon the world on 9 February. The device, which was first unveiled at the WWDC 2017 event in June last year, has undergone a lot of testing and improvement, which Apple believes justifies its $349 (Rs 21,900 approx) price tag.
But we’re in 2018, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that both Google and Amazon clearly have an upper hand over Apple in this segment, especially with their smartly curated ecosystem of products.
So, what really works for the HomePod, and can it really match up to its competition?
The Verge compared the launch of HomePod (another first in its segment for Apple) with its unveiling of the iPod many years back.
Now, I am going to skip the fact that the HomePod is only shipping to markets like the US, UK and parts of Europe right now, conveniently missing out on India (no surprise there).
But Apple is essentially relying on its iPhone-friendly Siri platform to work and function in the same vein as the HomePod. Does it have enough partners on board or even apps to work (outside its ecosystem) to appeal to buyers?
Let’s take a look at how the HomePod compares with the Echo from Amazon and the Google Home.
HomePod will cost you starting from $349 (Rs 21,900 approx) and works only if you’ve invested in Apple’s bouquet of products. Apple projects the HomePod as a smart speaker with high-quality audio on offer (eyeing the scalps of Bose and Sonos). It doesn’t matter what you’re going to do with it, the HomePod is your only option.
Amazon and Google, on the other hand, have clearly worked out their strategy to make sure that you can buy a smart speaker depending on what your use-case is. You can choose between small-sized speakers like Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, which cost a fraction of HomePod’s price.
You can also buy a smart speaker with Alexa or Google Assistant that offers a small screen, just in case you like to see the notifications popping up.
That’s not all – the Siri and iOS elements kick in when you start going through the number of third-party apps that are compatible with the HomePod, at least right now. For music, you’ll need to sign up for Apple Music (Rs 120 per month) even after you splurge on the speaker.
With Google and Amazon, you can choose from Spotify and Amazon’s own Music platform. Google Play Music and Tune In are already ready to use.
Having said that, they believe that Apple has a chance to pitch HomePod as a device for the musicologists, something that neither Echo or Google Home (or Max) can guarantee right now.
Siri < Alexa and Google Assistant
Siri might be a big hit with Apple users, but everyone else will agree that Apple hasn’t really explored its true potential over the past year or so. They haven’t moved beyond the Apple TV, iPhone and some third-party products that specifically cater to users on the Apple bandwagon.
Alexa and Google Assistant have taken voice-assistant capability to all corners, making them available to consumers at different strata.
HomePod clearly misses out on having a true-blue voice-assistant right now. Maybe that’s why Apple isn’t even headlining those features of the product. So, unless Apple gets its house in order for Siri, it’s hard to vouch for the product, and definitely not in a country like India where Siri is merely used to set alarms or reminders.
We haven’t used either of the products yet, but going by the general impression, there are doubts about the HomePod, with its price tag and feature set, which can only be clarified when people experience its utility and quality.
(We Indians have much to talk about these days. But what would you tell India if you had the chance? Pick up the phone and write or record your Letter To India. Don’t be silent, tell her how you feel. Mail us your letter at email@example.com. We’ll make sure India gets your message)