MH Tech Review: Apple HomePod
The Apple Home Pod is the latest voice operated tech to enter the market, following the Amazon range of devices and of course Google Home. Apple have proven time after time that you don’t need to be first to market to offer an exceptional product
In simple terms this device can be controlled by your voice, to ask Siri to play music, read out the news or weather, take notes, make reminders, send text, receive and take calls and also set a timer.
Obviously Apple aren’t going to slap together any old speaker tech.
They started with the Apple A8 chip (for the smarts), and fit in a six microphone array and seven tweeter array, with a high excursion 20 millimetre diaphragm woofer all covered in a seamless mesh fabric.
Next they have custom designed the speakers to play deep, rich and precise audio, and they didn’t stop there. You see, each of the tweeters has its own amplifier and transducer and is able to focus sound for directional control. Couple that with the smarts in the woofer which analyses the music and dynamically tunes the low frequencies, and you have smooth immersive and high fidelity sound everywhere in the room – and if you move the Home Pod, it will sense its position in the room and adjust to give you that same immersive and high fidelity sound.
The A8 Chip powers that audio experience, using the innovation of real time modelling of the woofer and upmixing of both direct and ambient audio. Essentially, the HomePod automatically analyses the acoustics, adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s location, by separating the direct and ambient sound and directs the sound around the room to give you amazing sound.
They have also tech in the Homepod, called Beamforming so that the microphone can hear you through the music, so you don’t need to shout “HEY SIRI” louder than the playing music to control it, even a whisper is picked up whilst the music is playing.
How To Set Up:
Turn the Home Pod on make sure you have turned on wifi and bluetooth on your iPhone. Simply hold your phone next to the device and follow the prompts. Which includes name of the device and room, agreeing to the terms (of course!). The set up will take the configuration details of your home wifi, iCloud and Apple Music and iTunes.
You can also enable personal requests, which in simple terms means you (or anyone within earshot of the Homepod) can send and read messages, use reminders and create and add to Notes to your device and your iCloud accounts.
Personal Requests, only work with one device, which needs to be on the same wifi network as the Home Pod, set as the primary device for Share My Location and also signed in with the same apple id as the HomePod. You can turn on and off personal requests using the Home App after the initial set up.
The sound is fantastic, all that tech produce the goods. Up until this point we’ve used a Sonos Play 3 as the audio for our open plan Dining room, Kitchen and Lounge area. The Apple sound is that much richer, we placed the Home Pod right next to the Play 3 and even to my untrained ear it was much better. Most likely that big woofer, and the 6 additional tweeters over the Play 3, and all those Apple smarts, really makes the difference – a fair test might have been a Play 5, but I didn’t have one to hand.
It obvious that the best experience will be through the use of an Apple Music subscription, so if you are already a subscriber this will fit in nicely with your life.
For me, I was unable to play music that I’d ripped from my physical CD collection via Siri. You can listen to ripped songs via airplay from your phone, in the same manner as a bluetooth or the Sonos speakers – but just not with voice control, which is a shame.
Anything purchased through iTunes was available to play via Siri but in reality, I needed to sign up to the Apple Music + Home Pod offer of a 3-month trial, to get the most from the HomePod and listen to my ripped music.
As we have a number of Apple devices across the family members, we should have signed up a long time ago and once I’d subscribed, we had access to catalogue of albums that we’d lost, or never gotten around to buying that we could listen to.
You can set and stop one timer, unfortunately it doesn’t support multiple times – which would be awesome for my painful attempts at cooking. With the integration of your reminders, you can keep a shopping list, and verbally add items to it for your trip to the stores.
You can ask Siri to play the top news, from a variety of sources such as 7 News and ABC, plus a few others. You can also get a low down on the weather and other Siri queries.
You can also use the HomePod as a hands-free speaker and microphone, to start and receive calls using the HomePod from your iPhone.
The other big feature is the integration to the HomeKit. HomeKit is the Apple home automation standard, which can be used to control compatible home accessories from switches to locks using the HomeApp.
With the HomePod you can now control all of those devices and scenes. Scenes are a collection of settings for devices, such as ‘Movie Night’, which can done things such as dim the lights and turn on the popcorn maker if that’s what you have configured.
Sadly there is no home automation, in my household – with the exception of telling the kids to turn off the lights and take the garbage out, and so I didn’t get to try this out.
As a first entry into the market, Apple have focused squarely on music quality and engineering a great product, and tight integration with Siri and Apple Music. There are plans in the works for linking two or more HomePod in either a stereo configuration or in different rooms, so this is Apple just getting started and there’s more to come as they have laid down a great foundation with this solid device.
The HomePod was a hit with my ‘much better half’, together with the sound quality and being able to voice control the music without reaching for the phone whilst cooking, is perfect. So much so, that with the impending 17 year anniversary she believes that Homepod is classified as furniture – convenient eh!
- Sound is awesome
- Easy Set Up
- Great aesthetics (it looks good)
- For an Apple product it is reasonably priced compared to Sonos
- Supporting only one device for Personal Requests
- Not being able to play my back catalog of ripped music via Siri
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