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The Apple HomePod Reviews Roundup [u]

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Apple’s highly-anticipated and often-delayed HomePod smart speaker is officially available for preorder today in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, while the device officially goes on sale on February 9. The device marks Apple’s first foray into the smart speaker market, and it carries with is quite a bit of expectation.

While critics praise the pint-sized speaker for its excellent sound and Siri’s excellent speech recognition, not all is perfect. Here’s a roundup up some of the early reviews of the smart speaker from across the web.

Mashable‘s Pete Pachal appreciates the HomePod’s sound quality, but has doubts about its success, considering its price and how packed the market already is:

Did I mention it sounds great, too? Because it really does: With song after song — from the snare drums of Ariana Grande’s ‘Side to Side’ to the rat-tat-tat voices of ‘My Shot’ from Hamilton to the of complex guitar of the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California,’ the HomePod made them all sound visceral and suitably warm, whether the volume as loud or soft. Apple’s diminutive speaker even made the ubiquitous Disney mega-hit ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen sound fresh, with impressively crisp piano notes and perfect vocals…

What I’m less convinced of, however, is whether customers will care. The success of the Echo Dot — Amazon’s puck-shaped smart speaker that definitely de-emphasizes the second word of that description — tells me that anyone who’s been won over by the category mostly just wants to get the power of voice command in more places. And audio? A glorified intercom will do. Or, hey, just connect your own speakers.

Julian Chokkattu from Digital Trends praised the HomePod’s excellent sound and highlighted its privacy-first nature, however he did note that Siri can grow in several different ways:

What is unique about the HomePod is Apple’s spotlight on privacy. Siri is listening locally, and then any requests you make are encrypted before it reaches Apple. This data is also anonymized — through the same differential privacy method used on the iPhone — so the requests are not tied to an iCloud account. This is a strong advantage Apple holds over competitors like Amazon and Google if you’re worried about your privacy…

It’s a little disappointing to see zero multi-user support, but we hope it’s a feature that’s in the works. Both the Google Assistant and Alexa can identify who is speaking and easily switch accounts.

Madeline Buxton of Refinery29 enjoyed the HomePod’s sound quality, and was thoroughly impressed by its minimalist design, though she wasn’t a fan of the speaker’s lack of multi-user support:

HomePod looks good — really good. Both the black and white versions are sleek and, thankfully, at 6.8 inches high, surprisingly smaller in person than they appear in photos. The device is comparable in size to the Sonos One, and is much smaller than its rectangular Google competitor, Google Home Max. It blends in so seamlessly that I didn’t even notice it when I walked into the room…

Secondly, although everyone in your apartment will be able to use the speaker, only the person who sets up HomePod on their iCloud account will be able to send texts, set up reminders, and add notes via voice commands. Google Home and Amazon Echo, meanwhile, can recognize different voices and provide personalized content accordingly.

Tech journalist Lance Ulanoff shared his thoughts on the HomePod in a post on Medium, and noted how incredibly high-quality the sound was, equating it to hearing a live performance in a small café:

What Apple has here is an ultra-high-quality speaker and the first physical instantiation of Siri without a screen. The fact that Apple is finally entering the smart speaker race is cause for muted celebration. It’s attractive, sounds amazing and is an excellent Siri ambassador. And it’s $349. Is better sound and solid iOS integration (plus the added cost of an Apple Music subscription) worth spending nearly four times as much as a decent sounding Echo?

These are just a handful of the current HomePod reviews out there, but it seems as if the overall sentiment towards Apple’s foray into the smart speaker fray is overwhelmingly positive.

Update: More HomePod reviews are being published–check out other links below:

  • TechCrunch – Up close with Apple’s HomePod
  • iMore – HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home Max vs. Sonos One: Speaker showdown
  • Stuff.tv – Apple HomePod hands-on review
  • Gear Patrol – First Look: Apple HomePod — Here’s What You Need to Know

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