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Apple HomePod: the best-sounding smart speaker yet?

We reveal our first impressions of the Apple HomePod, with early insights from the lab, and whether it could steal the show with its sound quality

One of the biggest wireless speaker releases of the year, the Apple HomePod is Apple’s first ever smart speaker and is likely to make a big impact on the market. It aims to raise the bar for the sound quality to expect from a compact wireless speaker and leave its rivals in the dust.

Unlike competitor smart speakers from Amazon and Google with the Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) and Google Home, Apple is touting the HomePod as a music player first and foremost and a voice assistant second.

Best Buy wireless and Bluetooth speakers – see what the HomePod is up against.

To achieve this ambition, internally it has seven tweeters for producing higher-frequency sounds, compared to just one on the Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) and Google Home. Like the Sonos One, it also optimises the sound it produces to match the shape of the room it’s in. This means that in theory it attempts to distribute its sound evenly throughout – regardless of any odd-shaped corners in your room.

The typical Apple build quality is on show here but, unusually, this is an exceptionally heavy speaker for its size at 2.5kg, making it rather like a shot put to lug around your home.

What’s more, unfortunate early adopters have discovered that the silicone base of the heavy speaker can leave white marks on your home’s pristine wooden surfaces, which can be difficult to remove. Apple has acknowledged the issue, giving recommendations on what to do if this happens to you. Having a silicone base can help further improve sound – you can read our impressions on whether it’s worth it for the inconvenience, or whether its sound quality doesn’t make the grade regardless, in our HomePod first look review.

HomePod limitations

Earlier this month we also highlighted the significant limitations of the HomePod. For example, Android smartphone users will have to look elsewhere, as you need an Apple device (newer iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) to set it up. In addition, the only music service natively supported by the speaker is Apple Music. There’s no direct support for popular alternatives such as Spotify. The only way you can access these is through AirPlay, so if you use other music streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, Deezer or Amazon Music, see our recommendations for alternatives to the HomePod.

In terms of smart functionality, Apple buries this quite far down in its list of what the HomePod can do. We get to the bottom of why this could be in our first look review. In the HomePod, Apple’s voice assistant Siri, which allows you to control your speaker with your voice and make additional commands such as asking it what the weather will be like, is competing directly with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Assistant.

Siri can perform a variety of tasks when you ask it to, such as read you text messages, add reminders for things to do later and create notes on your Apple device. However, with Apple wanting to focus on the sound quality and the HomePod having been delayed beyond its original December launch date, we wanted to find out whether Siri can match the functionality of Alexa and Google Assistant.

To read all about this and our full first impressions of the HomePod’s sound quality, visit our Apple HomePod first look review.

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