Apple has launched expensive new devices to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google. But some question how new it is.
But the company announced today that it’s relaunching its Gadget 1 tech website, dubbed “Flop,” after a rare consumer blunder in 2018.
The Apple HomePod is the pinnacle of smart speaker systems, along with the Amazon Echo and Google Nest.
Available in Australia from February 3rd and priced at $479, it is one of the more expensive speakers.
But the $3.1 trillion company thinks it’s worth the big bucks because it offers “next-level acoustics in a gorgeous, iconic design.”
news.com.au is licensed for a quick HomePod play in New York and the sound effects are impressive.
But Eagle Eye commentators noticed one key word the tech giant didn’t utter when it launched Wednesday US time.
Others are wondering if the HomePod has enough new features to warrant a better run than the first iteration.
HomePod version 1, released in 2018, was quietly retired in 2021 with no replacement. Its steady companion, his cheaper and less flashy HomePod mini, is still on sale.
Reviewers liked the early HomePod’s sound quality, but considered it a failure in other areas. Some songs could only be played on Apple Music, and it was expensive because it had limited smart features compared to its rivals.
It turned out that the first HomePod had some dirty wooden surfaces, much to the chagrin of users with expensive furniture.
Tech website Endgagdet said Apple has “give up” on the HomePod in 2021, adding that the device appeared to be “a work in progress.” FastCompany said it was a “flop” that brought nothing new to the crowded market.
But now it’s back. And Apple claims the problem is solved — it’s smarter, and HomePod 2.0 will succeed where HomePod 1.0 didn’t.
Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said:
“Leveraging our audio expertise and innovation, the new HomePod delivers rich, deep bass, natural midrange and clear, detailed highs.”
Full-throttle sound quality
It looks sensible, but it’s essentially the same as previous Apple smart speakers, with mesh fabric and a screen that pulsates with a myriad of ethereal colors when you yell “Hey Siri.”
It boasts a “high-excursion” woofer and five tweeters (down from seven on the 2018 version) around the base, which, combined with the S7 chip, offer a “groundbreaking listening experience.”
The device’s sensors mean it can work in the middle of a room or by a wall, adjusting where it emits sound accordingly.
news.com.au listened to a series of quick fire tunes on the HomePod and found the sound to be crisp, full-throttle and all-encompassing. This is amazing from a relatively small device.
During our short tests, every element of the song seemed to be emphasized at times, from the meaty bass to the vocalist’s lip smacks as he took in his breath.
If you have two HomePods, you can play the same song or completely different songs at once. Or put them together for a stereo experience that Apple says is more “immersive” than a traditional pair of speakers.
One word Appel didn’t mention
However, website The Verge noticed that Apple skipped a word when describing the device’s sound quality. He hasn’t said it’s “better” than the HomePod before. It may suggest that the sound quality is similar.
The new HomePod is also heavily integrated into Apple’s ecosystem. Requires an iPhone to set up and is only compatible with iPhone 8 and later, iPad 5th generation, and other Apple technologies.
Android users can use Siri instead to connect to HomePod or Airplay Spotify from their iPhone. No Bluetooth connectivity either.
Apple says, “It’s not uncommon for vibration-damped silicon-based speakers to leave mild marks.” Maybe take it off your family’s decades-old living room table.
Where HomePod gets smarter
Apple has worked hard to make the HomePod function smarter, and this is one of the main criticisms of the speaker in 2018.
It can now respond to a large number of commands. It will tell you the temperature outside, but it will also tell you the temperature in the room you are in.
Users can control other smart devices via HomePod and create different mood settings. For example, say “Good evening” and your device will lower the smart blinds and dim the smart lights.
It also listens for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and can alert you on your phone if you’re out of the house, so you can call Triple Zero Quick Sharp.
Amazon’s Echo devices are plagued by concerns that they can spy on you and that your audio is permanently stored and listened to by staff due to privacy concerns.
Amazon says its privacy concerns are exaggerated, its speakers only record when something is requested, and these recordings can be deleted.
Apple goes even further by saying that the HomePod doesn’t store audio, even for training purposes, unless the user specifically allows the company to do so.
high price tag
The $479 price tag makes the HomePod expensive, but it’s about $70 cheaper than the original HomePod. The most expensive version, the Amazon Echo Studio, has five speakers and Dolby Atmos and costs $329. This brings the prices of Apple’s devices closer to those of premium brands such as Bose.
But Apple insists it’s worth it for those looking for great sound quality.
The 2nd generation HomePod may look and sound like the original HomePod. But it’s a smarter piece of kit with more features and a slightly lower price tag, which Apple hopes will keep it from the next flop.