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Apple HomePod: Everything you need to know about Apple’s smart speaker

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The Apple HomePod is a smart speaker made by Apple. The device lets you listen to music, but also works fine in your smart home. In this article everything you want to know about the product.

What is Apple HomePod?

The Apple HomePod is a product that Apple has never made before: a smart speaker. You can play music with it or consult Siri on it. Siri is Apple’s smart assistant, which you can already find on an iPhone or iPad, for example. As a smart speaker, the HomePod is comparable to the Amazon Echo or Google Home: these are also smart speakers with voice assistants on board. In contrast to those speakers, Apple considers music reproduction to be of paramount importance – comparable to, for example, Sonos.

Why should you buy an Apple HomePod?

If you have not yet purchased products from Apple, then you have to ask yourself why you should get a HomePod. This speaker is primarily intended for people who use all kinds of Apple services and products in and around the house, such as the music streaming service Apple Music or the smart home protocol Apple Homekit . Many Apple services are not easy to use with other people’s products (Amazon, Google), so you have to rely on the HomePod.

Conversely, some music streaming services do work with the HomePod, but only via Apple AirPlay 2. This is a smart music protocol that is comparable to, for example, Bluetooth: you can then play music from all kinds of services that support AirPlay 2. Unfortunately, Apple AirPlay 2 is not available yet and will be launched later in 2018. It is also the case that controlling services with your voice only works with the services of Apple; so you cannot request songs from Spotify.

Apple HomePod isn’t cheap, here’s why

Most Apple products are not cheap. At the time of launch (February 9 in the United States, among others), the smart speaker costs $ 349. That is equivalent to 280 euros, excluding all European taxes. This makes the HomePod perhaps the most expensive smart speaker at the moment; Amazon’s most expensive speaker costs $ 250, and you get a lot in return . The only smart speaker that has an even higher price tag is the Google Home Max . But he also puts a lot of emphasis on playing music.

This is also the reason that the Apple HomePod has such a high price tag: you can use this speaker perfectly for playing music in a living room. That is also the point with which Apple puts the device on the market, as an alternative to the speakers that play music, not putting it first and focusing on smart operation and voice commands. It therefore seems that Apple wants to focus on the people who would rather go for a Sonos speaker than the tech-savvy people who like to figure things out for themselves.

The HomePod is aware of your room layout

Because Apple is committed to good music reproduction, it has also created the space to excel in this. This gives the device spatial insight. Simply put, this means that the speaker knows how the room is arranged. The audio output can be adjusted accordingly. If the speaker is in the middle of the room, you can hear everything from everyone. But if it is, for example, a few centimeters away from the wall, the smart speakers will activate its various drivers for an accurate and clear reproduction.

These are the specifications of the Apple HomePod

The Apple HomePod is almost eighteen inches high (17.78 inches to be exact). Under the hood we find an Apple A8 chipset, the same one that is also present in the Apple iPhone 6. At the top is a 4-inch woofer, while at the bottom we find seven tweeters and six microphones. These tweeters are all facing outwards, so the audio output can be adjusted to the layout of the room or placement of the speaker. You need at least an iPhone 5s or iOS 11.2.5 to operate the speaker.

Of course there is support for WiFi (802.11a / b / g / n / ac with mimo) and there is support for both Homekit and AirPlay 2. In the future, you can link multiple HomePods together for a multiroom setup, so that you can rooms in the house can play the same music (or different music if you wish). At the top is a touch-sensitive environment for operation. Furthermore, the HomePod is well secured with a special encryption, so that your (online) data is in any case well protected.

HomePod and Siri

As mentioned, it is possible to use the Apple HomePod in combination with voice assistant Siri. You can compare this control to the way you use (or will use) Alexa on an Amazon Echo. Not only can you control Apple Music via Siri, but you can also take calls, answer messages and even control Homekit devices in the house. Moreover, you can tell Siri which music you like and which you don’t like when you listen via Apple Music; that data is also shared with your iPhone or iPad.

Controlling homekit devices via voice assistant Siri works the same as on the iPhone and iPad. You even have access to the set scenes via the smart speaker. For example, you can activate a scene before going to sleep, after which Siri ensures that everything is off that must be turned off. Of course you can also use Siri for other things, such as questions about the news, sports, weather, traffic and much more. You can also do things like set timers, translate words and sentences or, for example, ask how many centimeters are in a hectometre.

Apple HomePod and bluetooth

If you want to use the speaker for more than just the network possibilities and smart services, then unfortunately we have bad news. One of the things that remained would be the option to play music or make calls via bluetooth. However, Apple has chosen not to use bluetooth for this. You can only use Apple AirPlay 2 in combination with the HomePod. The speaker does have Bluetooth 5.0, but at the time of writing you cannot play audio with it, unfortunately.

Setting up HomePod is easy

When you want to set up a HomePod, a lot of things are automatic. When you bring an iPhone or iPad, with at least iOS 11.2.5, near the speaker, that device will get a window asking if you want to install the HomePod. Then two things happen. The speaker emits a tone that your iPhone picks up, that’s step one. You don’t have to do anything for that. Siri then dictates a four-digit PIN to enter on your iOS device. Then you switch to the Homekit installation.

You choose the house and room where the Apple HomePod is located. After that, you choose the Siri language and agree to the standard terms of use. After that, you have to set up iCloud and iTunes. iCloud should go automatically, along with the settings of the Wi-Fi network (you can still adjust both things afterwards). In order for iCloud pairing to work properly, make sure you have set two-step verification and Keychain, otherwise the installation will not work properly.

Price and availability

For now, the Apple HomePod will be available in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia from February 9th, priced at $ 349. That is equivalent to 280 euros, without our taxes.

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