With Apple’s new HomePod being released just under a week ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the current state of smart speakers. Through my pondering, I’ve come to the conclusion that while they are definitely useful at certain times, they have not cracked up to what they aim to be.
Let’s start by looking at the biggest competitors in this smart speaker market. The Amazon Echo is probably the most popular smart home speaker. It has great smart functionality in terms of its various skills. It can hail ubers, connect to wifi lights, and get you basic information like traffic and weather. However it has average speaker quality and thus cant compete with the Google Home Max which does everything I previously mentioned but with excellent sound quality. More recently, Sonos also made a smart speaker that directly competes with the feature set of the Google Home Max but at a lower cost. Still, all of these speakers are much more expensive than the Echo Dot and Google Home Mini which boast all the same smart functionality with minimal speaker quality. Then lastly, we have the Apple HomePod. Apple’s latest entry into the smart speaker market is a bit of a double edged sword. The HomePod sounds fantastic as a speaker, probably better than all these others, but Siri is so limited in what it can do compared to Google and Alexa that it just simply cant compete in terms of the smart features of these other devices.
So now that you know what’s available on the market, it will make a bit more sense as I dive into the pros and cons of getting one of these speakers in the first place. All of these speakers mentioned make very good limited audio assistants. I love using my Alexa to set alarms and timers, check on weather, and control my smart light bulbs. But beyond that, I rarely use the other smart features it is capable of such as hailing Ubers and checking traffic patterns just to name a few.
The main reason to get one of these speakers is to listen to music with it. Being able to ask Siri or Alexa to play any desired song is actually amazing and makes listening to music less about setting it up and more about just the joy of listening. This is where the Apple HomePod shines. Siri in combination with this amazing speaker work great to just play music in ways that the Echo and Google Home just can’t compete. Only Sonos is even close to having this mix of smart home functionality and impeccable audio quality.
So, knowing how little these almost identical smart speakers can actually do, can I recommend them? I’d say if you already have smart home tech like wifi lights or are looking to get some, or are an avid daily music listener, then getting a nice sounding smart speaker is definitely worth it. However, if you might just use it to check small daily tasks like alarms and weather, then the cheer Home mini or Echo dot make a lot more sense.
Looking for a new gadget? How about a Drone? You know you want one!