Sonos is now offering a truly stereo pair of Sonos One speakers for $349 to directly challenge the HomePod at the same price point. Now that they've missed the chance of competing for sales during the holidays, overall interest in Apple's smart speaker may have continued to die down.
While an Apple ID is required to activate HomePod, every request made of Siri is not only encrypted, but also anonymised, before being sent to Apple's servers. Google and Amazon both offer rich, room-scale audio, while Apple has promised the highest-fidelity audio, with quality engineered sound, and arrays of microphones and tweeters. "It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, attractive design that is so much fun to use". It's also possible to call on Siri by holding down the middle section of the touchscreen.
In my own home, I have Amazon's Echo Dot system. WhatsApp is supported by Siri, but beyond that very few apps are. The basic Amazon's Echo costs around $100, and while Echo is in a lesser league when it comes to sound, if you're a more casual listener of music you frankly may not give a hoot. An Apple spokesperson promised us that the functions will be "coming this year in a free software update". Moreover, under a current offering you can get buy two Sonos Ones for $349, perhaps coincidentally the same price as a single HomePod.
But Apple Music subscribers with Android phones get shortchanged because Apple Music integration only works when there is a matching iPhone in the same Wi-Fi network.
However, Alexa delivers a more flexible package than either the Google Assistant or Apple HomePod. Siri doesn't know any, while Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa both tie for groaningly terrible dad joke of the year. Indeed, Google is reaching out to the same audience of people who have a discerning ear for music as Apple is with HomePod.
However, Nest is only compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, while Samsung SmartThings, also only works with Google Assistant and Alexa.
Brian Chen from the New York Times spent his time with all three main smart speakers: HomePod, Alexa, and Home respectively, and his experience paints quite a picture. Nor can Siri identify your voice as opposed to another family member's voice, something the other assistants can do.
That is not to say that the Amazon Echo is a bad system in this department, far from it, but the Google Home voice recognition capability is superior to either of its competitors. The HomePod also exclusively uses Apple Music, so Spotify and Pandora users won't be able to control their music from the HomePod, limiting the device's broader appeal. Siri on the HomePod can't differentiate between voices or handle calendar tasks, like the competition, according to CNET. At times, not only did HomePod respond, but so did Siri on my nearby iPhone.