I try out Apple’s new HomePod for TidBITS


As someone who’s ambivalent at best about listening to music, I’m not an obvious user candidate for Apple’s new HomePod speaker.

After all, the audio device is inextricably tied to the Apple Music service and aimed at those with ravenous appetites for all manner of melody. The speaker is, first and foremost, a music appliance.

Yet, I adore the HomePod.

It’s precisely what I crave, a compact yet killer-sounding speaker for my home office so I can play my favorite podcasts, get caught up the news, and more. That it’s an Apple product is a bonus (though that doesn’t come cheap).

Until now, I’d been using another Apple speaker, the venerable iPod Hi-Fi, which sounds pretty good for an 11-year-old device, and has held up amazingly well. The HomePod, of course, sounds much better.

In this era of “smart” speakers, I’d plugged a compact Amazon Echo Dot into the Hi-Fi to essentially give it a brain transplant. This allowed me to call upon the Alexa assistant and have the audio avatar’s utterances emanate from the Apple speaker.

Apple has its own intelligent assistant, Siri, which is the HomePod’s brain.

With all of this in mind, I set out for a TidBITS article to find what my loaner HomePod could do for me — other than play music.

For context, I pitted Siri against Alexa (via the Dot) and against Google Assistant (via that company’s Home Mini, which is the Dot’s direct competitor). I threw a variety of tasks at the speakers (playing news, making calls, creating notes or reminders) and rated how they did.

If you have been following smart-speaker developments, you can probably guess how this all turned out. Regardless, it was a fun challenge, and it showed how the HomePod is very much in the running even though it’s late to market.

As for me, I’m happy just throwing content from my iPhone to the HomePod via AirPlay. And did I mention that this speaker sounds great?

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