Reader's report: The Apple HomePod in a practical test - is it worth buying?

HomePod reader report featured image

A reader recently wrote to me that he could write me a little review about the HomePod because he took one home from a trip to the USA. Of course, I gladly accepted this offer. However, since he does not want to be mentioned by name, I would like to thank him for unknown reasons. It's great when readers get involved in the blog and share their experiences with others. Thanks for that! But here's about his report:

The HomePod

First things first, a HomePod purchased in the US (Apple product page) also works here in the DACH region. Currently only in English ...

I bought the HomePod from a US Apple Store - retail price $ 349 + tax = $ 372. That corresponds to about 300 euros (as of 03/2018). It remains, at least at the current dollar rate, well below the EU limit for souvenirs from air travel - even if there is not much room for other souvenirs.

This is how you get the smart Apple loudspeaker pressed into your hand in the store.

This is how you get the smart Apple loudspeaker pressed into your hand in the store.

Packaging and technology

The HomePod is delivered in a well-fitting, reinforced carrying case, which is reasonable considering the weight of the device. The smart Apple loudspeaker is packaged in typical Apple style. If you want to open the packaging undamaged, you will first have to struggle with the outer packaging ... In addition to the HomePod, the box itself only contains "supplements" such as the usual Apple stickers.

The cable is rolled up as usual and unfortunately firmly connected to the HomePod. It cannot be changed by the user in order to exchange it for a longer or shorter cable. If you want to operate the HomePod you bought in the USA here, you either have to tinker an adapter cable with a US socket or - if you dare - cut off the existing plug and connect an EU plug. Our 240Volt are within the specification, a voltage converter to 110Volt is therefore not necessary.

I am currently using the HomePod with a travel adapter. But sooner or later - as with other devices imported from the USA - I will install a suitable Euro plug.

An unpleasant side issue: the power cable is unfortunately firmly connected to the HomePod and cannot be exchanged.

An unpleasant side issue: the power cable is unfortunately firmly connected to the HomePod and cannot be exchanged.

commissioning

Shortly after the power supply, the HomePod reports to the iPhone via Bluetooth. The setup that follows naturally also works with an iPhone that is set to German. The initial configuration only takes a few minutes and you can start with the first test.

If you "only" want to stream music via Airplay, you are almost ready - but the HomePod can do a lot more ... If you want to speak to Siri, the Siri language on the iPhone must also be set to English, because the German localization will probably allow until Market launch in Germany is a long time coming.

During the initial setup, the access data for the WLAN are transferred so that Bluetooth is no longer required later. However, it cannot be used to address the HomePod as a Bluetooth speaker. Streaming music from an Android mobile phone or other non-Apple devices does not seem to be possible (for the time being).

The HomePod has finally found its new home in the living room.

The HomePod has finally found its new home in the living room.

Compare Alexa and HomePod

Compared to Amazon's Alexa, the HomePod is significantly larger, but the audio quality - like the price - is much better. The HomePod fills my living room with sound.

It is difficult to compare with speech recognition. After a short period of getting used to it, Alexa is already very far ahead. Siri, on the other hand, currently only understands English on the HomePod - the comprehension problems may be due to my pronunciation. ;-) According to my subjective feeling, Alexa is years ahead - also when it comes to integrating third-party apps. Apple has not yet opened up a possibility for developers here.

Compared to Alexa and HomePod, the Siri speaker scores with better sound, while Alexa clearly offers more options for using third-party apps.

Compared to Alexa and HomePod, the Siri speaker scores with better sound, while Alexa clearly offers more options for using third-party apps.

Haptics and operation

The braid that surrounds the HomePod is nowhere near as tough as I expected it to be. If you press on it with your finger, it gives way slightly. The control panel on the top is well done and practical (as usual from Apple), but at least at the beginning it is certainly helpful if you set up the HomePod in such a way that the top is accessible or can be seen.

Alexa's "rotating beacon" on the top may seem to be better placed, but Siri answers after a request without further words with a "yes?", While Alexa remains silent. This has advantages insofar as the Siri also perceives commands from other rooms and acoustic feedback appears better for this reason. The glow of the Alexa device cannot be seen around three corners.

When it comes to voice recognition for music, the HomePod is way ahead: Even with a bit louder music, Siri still understands commands well, while Alexa has to be manually throttled at full volume in order to be able to speak her commands.

Play music on the HomePod

If you want to use the HomePod to listen to music "freely" and not just play existing playlists, you cannot avoid a subscription to Apple Music. Unfortunately, you can't listen to free radio stations with the HomePod - unfortunately it only knows one station: Beats 1. The streaming of Spotify doesn't work yet either. Whether Apple will retrofit it is still in the stars.

In principle, you can stream from any Apple device in the same WLAN, whereby the last one "wins". If you have multiple iPhones, iPods or Macs, the HomePod is displayed on each device. You can stop playback from any device, play a song and give other control commands - regardless of which device you originally started playback from.

During setup, the HomePod must be assigned a location (eg "living room"). With the name of this location, the HomePod is then displayed in the list of Airplay devices, which at first seems a bit strange. However, you can find instructions online (e.g. here on Youtube), which explains how to rename both the name and the location.

The bottom line is that the HomePod can be recommended to anyone who is already at home in the Apple universe and uses the Apple Music streaming service.

The bottom line is that the HomePod can be recommended to anyone who is already at home in the Apple universe and uses the Apple Music streaming service.

Unterm strich

Audio quality: As expected, extremely good. I would do it with one Bose Soundtouch 20 or even 30 set equal. The HomePod isn't quite as bass-heavy as the Bose speakers.

Speech recognition: Good, although there is still room for improvement. But this applies to all Apple devices with Siri.

Skills in addition to musical services to control house electrics such as blinds and the like to carry out: Well behind Alexa. Homekit-compatible SmartHome accessories like thermostats, lights or the like, however, it can easily be controlled via Siri.

Buy recommendation: In any case!

 

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