Apple HomePod review: Siri, price, sound, update and others
By Jocelyn Longoria 2019-06-17 2405 0
Test conclusion: What you need to know
The HomePod sounds great, better than any other smart loudspeaker - and largely independent of its placement. Voice control with Siri has a lot of potential, but currently there are still large gaps in the range of functions. It is hardly useful for Android users. When it comes to the smartness of a loudspeaker, competing products can be used to switch on the lights or check the weather much more cheaply. The HomePod is more about sound quality. Especially in combination with an Apple music subscription, this is a very round thing.
Great sound with deep basses
No voice recognition
Extremely sensitive speech recognition
Few supported Smarthome devices
Incompatible with Android
Voice selectable music only from iTunes and Apple Music
The Apple HomePod came onto the market much later than competitors such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, but it came out with force. The smart speaker has Apple's speech assistant Siri on board. Users select the music they want on call, control smart home technology such as networked lamps and much more. Does this work better than its competitors? Is the sound quality appropriate to the price? The COMPUTER BILD test provides the answers.
Apple HomePod: Installation only for iPhone owners
It's very easy to set up: just plug your HomePod into the power outlet, pick up your iPhone and hold it next to the speaker, confirm that you really want to set up your HomePod, select your language, that's it. The Home App automatically transfers the access data to the home WLAN from the iPhone to the HomePod, as does any account data from Apple Music. So far, it has not been possible to set up a smart loudspeaker faster. However, Android users are not allowed to use the HomePod - this is different with the competition.
Apple HomePod under test: Sound
And what's the HomePod good for now? The small speaker is chic, the disguising net sits close to the loudspeaker. The colours are black and white. On the upper side there is a touchpad that displays plus and minus for the volume setting and colourful Siri clouds. It's a shame, since Amazon's Echo Show demonstrates that real displays on smart speakers can be useful for time and weather information, for example. But above all, the HomePod should be a good loudspeaker. The technicians in Cupertino have come up with some ideas: Seven tweeters are located in the lower third of the circular device. In the upper third there is a 10 centimeter woofer, some competitors are content with half the diameter. In between are six microphones that, like other smart loudspeakers, constantly listen for the activation command, here "Hey Siri". Even at very high volumes and low speech volumes, Siri still responds to the user's wishes and thus also from an adjoining room - beyond what the human ear can do.
At the same time, the microphones capture the sound reflected from the room walls to the loudspeaker. With this information, the HomePod corrects, for example, booming or too quiet bass when the distance to walls is too small or too large. In the test, the HomePod sounded practically the same regardless of the room and location, whether it was placed freestanding on a cooking island or on a sideboard. Only very close to the wall on the shelf can full-bodied electric basses press a little too hard, so the HomePod is surprisingly powerful for its compact format. Such deep bass is otherwise only known from much larger speakers. The HomePod also sounds really good in other respects: the tones remain very neutral and unadulterated at all volumes, the trebles always pleasant, even if not very finely resolved. With its seven tweeters, the speaker aligns voices and instruments to the front, while the recorded room atmosphere is reproduced undirected in all directions. In this way it creates a large cloud of sound in the room - ideal for listening on the side at a very high quality level. If the built-in microphones detect a placement in front of a wall, the clever sound adjustment allows the rear tweeters to play more quietly and does not uselessly dud the wall, which easily leads to annoying sound sauce with other loudspeakers radiating all around.
Apple HomePod: Test in Stereo
If the user connects two HomePods to form a stereo pair, the cloud of sound widens to a certain extent. However, the Apple loudspeakers do not create a stereo stage like conventional speakers, only at high pitches the two separate between left and right. Towards lower frequencies, the reproduction of the two becomes increasingly similar. So the HomePods remain as a stereo pair, too, rather a sideline. They don't create a precise spatial illusion like classic stereo speakers, but on the other hand they don't bind to the usual narrowly defined optimal listening position. The sound gain from a second HomePod in stereo formation is therefore limited. As long as there are no large areas over 30 square metres to be covered with sound, a second HomePod is better located in a second room - in order to offer high-quality sound quality and voice control there as well. But the system around the HomePod is also surprisingly open. Additional rooms can also be equipped with loudspeakers from other manufacturers. But they don't listen directly to Siri. This is only possible indirectly via a HomePod or an iPhone. Prerequisite: The other speakers are capable of AirPlay 2. The manufacturer Sonos, for example, already offers corresponding updates for its speakers, Bang & Olufsen and other manufacturers will follow.
Apple HomePod: HomeKit, Home App, Shortcuts
With Siri - and thus via the HomePod - all Smarthome products that are certified for Apple HomeKit can be controlled. These are, for example, networked lamps such as Philips Hue and IKEA Tradfri or the smart thermostats from Tado or Eve (formerly Elgato Eve). Caution: Some products from third-party manufacturers such as Belkin WeMo require a special radio adapter (bridge) for HomeKit for around 30 euros. The hardware mountain around the WLAN router is thus swelling all the time. At Amazon it's exactly the other way round: If you have an Echo Plus or an Echo Show, the Smarthome control center is already built in, no bridge, for example for Philips Hue, is needed. Setup and linking is largely self-explanatory via the home app pre-installed on iOS devices. It can also be used to set automatic functions such as switching on the lights and playing favourite music as soon as the user comes home with his smartphone.
With the update to iOS 12, so-called shortcuts have been added. These can be put together in the app of the same name, and Siri shortcuts were also mentioned in advance. The app offers a whole series of ready-made shortcuts, many of them for mobile use or for the office. For example, a text can be translated and saved as a note at the touch of a button or with a freely definable Siri command - the shortcuts also link steps over several actions. In conjunction with the HomePod, music shortcuts are particularly useful, so that, for example, the "Siri, new music!" command automatically plays the latest personal recommendations from Apple Music. This saves a lot of chatter. But the possibility is also interesting for iPhone users. We has put together a separate article for you on how to set up and use the shortcuts:
Apple HomePod: Siri is constantly learning new things
Users with multiple Apple devices may wonder who will answer now when they say "Hey Siri". Apple has solved that quite cleverly. The loudspeaker answers with priority. Only when you leave the house or go into another room does the mobile phone react again. The prerequisite for this is that the same Apple account is set up on HomePod and iPhone. In principle, however, the HomePod reacts to all voices. This also has advantages: the whole family can control lamps and music via commands to Siri. On request, Siri also reads messages from iMessage or WhatsApp via the HomePod, as well as notes from the smartphone. If you want to keep these things confidential, you can turn it off in the HomePod settings under the "Personal requests" option. During the initial installation, the app asks if it should activate access. Since iOS 12, Siri has been making calendar entries on demand, but that didn't work at first.
Buy Apple HomePod: Price and running costs
The Apple HomePod cost EUR 349 at its market launch, and the Group has meanwhile lowered the price to EUR 329. But it's even cheaper: anyone who orders the smart box online pays only 288 euros including shipping (as of April 4, 2019). Compared to the different versions of the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, this seems a lot, but the sound quality of the HomePod is much better. The Apple Music subscription for 9.99 euros a month should be taken into account by buyers, without a HomePod would only be half-baked.
Apple HomePod: How to install iOS 12.2
Since iOS 12, Apple automatically installs the latest software version on your HomePod. This happens unnoticed and in the background and guarantees that you can use the latest functions. If you want to install the update or make sure you're using the latest iOS version, go to the Home app and select the House icon in the upper left corner. If you are using multiple locations (apartment, office, holiday home), you can now access Home Settings. Otherwise, scroll to Software Update and wait for the software version to appear. Install all displayed updates by pressing Download and Install. The Auto Install Updates slider should be set to green. Now you never have to install an update manually again!
Apple HomePod 2: All information about the successor
Is it worth buying a HomePod now? Yes, because currently there are only first rumors about the HomePod 2. They have it in themselves, because Apple seems to plan a really big update here. But the development cycles are longer for less important Apple devices, so experts don't expect the successor in 2019.
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