Apple finally released the HomePod smart speaker, but it's not looking like the device to buy.
Apple finally released the HomePod smart speaker this month, but it's not looking like the device to buy.
Before the HomePod, other smart speakers like Google Home, Amazon's Echo, and the Sonos One were playing music from Spotify, Google Music, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, and other streaming services. The HomePod is the first to let you control Apple Music with your voice, but that's it.
If you don't use Apple Music, there is no reason to buy a HomePod.
The HomePod does seem to have one thing going for it: I haven't heard it myself, but the HomePod supposedly has the best sound out of any other smart speaker. But what's the point of a great-sounding smart speaker if you don't use the smart part? You might as well just buy a great regular speaker if you use something like Spotify — or, better yet, a smart speaker that can control Spotify with your voice, like, say, the Sonos One.
Here are all the reasons you should consider the Sonos One instead of Apple's HomePod:
1. The Sonos One sounds amazing.
I haven't tried out the HomePod myself, but the consensus is that it sounds very good. Some say it's even better than the Sonos One's audio quality.
That's great, but I can safely say that the Sonos One sounds amazing, too. One of my favorite things about the Sonos One is that music sounds rich and full with deep bass even at low volumes. So even if Apple's HomePod has superior sound (you'd have to test it yourself to be the judge), you still won't be disappointed with the quality of the Sonos One.
2. Unlike the HomePod, you can control a bunch of different music streaming services on the Sonos One using your voice.
Amazon's Alexa assistant, which is built into the Sonos One, lets me use my voice to play and control music from all sorts of music services, including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, SiriusXM, and TuneIn. The Sonos One is even compatible with Apple Music, but that's without voice control.
The HomePod, on the other hand, doesn't let you use voice control for any other music service besides Apple Music.
If you want a speaker where you can control any of these services with voice control, the HomePod won't make sense for you. For example, I wouldn't be able to ask Siri on the HomePod to play NPR from iHeartRadio, like I usually do with the Sonos One, or ask it to play music from Spotify.
3. The Sonos One works with Amazon's Alexa, which is more capable than the HomePod's Siri.
Alexa on the Sonos One doesn't quite have all the features you'd find on Amazon's own Echo devices. It's much the same with Siri on the HomePod, which isn't the "full-fat" Siri from iOS or macOS devices.
Still, even on the Sonos One, Alexa is far more flexible and capable than Siri on the HomePod. Both Alexa and Siri can do the basics, but you have access to several thousands of Alexa skills that range from humorous to productive.
4. The Sonos One will work with Google Assistant soon, too.
Sonos will soon add support for Google Assistant sometime in 2018, which will give you the option to use Google's smart assistant if you prefer it over Amazon's Alexa, as well as Google's Music streaming service. Meanwhile, if you buy a HomePod, you're stuck with Siri.
5. The Sonos One will also get AirPlay 2 so you can use it to play any audio from iOS and macOS devices.
You can already play Apple Music from a mobile device to a Sonos One, but Sonos will add support for Apple's AirPlay 2 this year. What does that mean? Basically, you'll be able to use the Sonos One as a wireless external speaker for any and all audio coming from your iOS and macOS devices, including audio from videos.
6. The Sonos One works with any smartphone. HomePod: Not so much.
To set up the HomePod, you'll need an iOS device. And that's despite the fact that Apple Music has an app for Android phones. So even if you're an Android user with Apple Music, you won't be able to set up the HomePod unless you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod running iOS 11.2.5.
Meanwhile, the Sonos One can be set up with iPhone and Android devices with the Sonos app for iOS or Android.
On top of that, the HomePod uses AirPlay to play music from third-party services like Spotify from a mobile device. That means you can only use an iOS or macOS device with the HomePod. Meanwhile, the Sonos One can play a wide variety of streaming services from any device.
7. A single Sonos One costs $150 less than the HomePod.
A single Sonos One speaker costs $150 less than a single HomePod, all while being more versatile and flexible with great sound.
8. For a limited time, Sonos is offering two Sonos One speakers for $350 — that's the price of one HomePod.
Sonos is offering two Sonos One speakers for $350 for a limited time. That's the same price as a single HomePod.
With two Sonos One speakers, you can have stereo music in one room, or play the same music in different room with single speakers. Apple doesn't offer the stereo or multi-room HomePod feature just yet, but it's "coming later this year."
So, why would anyone buy the HomePod?
The HomePod is for those who are absolutely all-in with the Apple ecosystem. They own an iPhone and probably a Mac computer and/or iPad, they use Siri, and they also use Apple Music exclusively.
Still, even all-in Apple users won't be able to use their voice to stream third-party audio apps, like the radio apps I like to use for NPR, so keep that in mind before making your purchase.