HomePod vs. Amazon Echo: Which should you buy?
Apple’s long-rumored, Wi-Fi-connected speaker is finally here. Apple is positioning the HomePod as the quintessential in-home listening device. It also comes with Siri — use the wake phrase, “Hey, Siri,” and it can do anything Siri can do.
It’s first and foremost a powerful speaker that’s built to fill the room with outstanding sound. You can also control your HomeKit-enabled accessories (even when you’re away from home, since the device acts as a HomeKit Home Hub), set timers and reminders, and interact with Siri in loads of other ways. Given that it comes with Siri built right in, you may be thinking of the device as Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo or Google Home. It’s not, and that’s an important fact to consider before you make any purchasing decisions.
How HomePod compares to the Amazon Echo
Because of Apple’s focus on audio quality, it’s probably more accurate to compare HomePod to Sonos wireless speakers. Apple’s baked in quite the hardware package: seven beam-forming tweeters, one 4-inch, Apple-designed woofer, and a six-microphone array. It also runs on Apple’s A8 chip.
Using what Apple calls “Spatial Awareness,” its beam-forming tweeters and woofer work together to provide virtual surround sound in whatever space you’re in. The HomePod will “scan” the room and adjust its tweeter/woofer system accordingly to provide the best possible sound. The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, has a single 2-inch tweeter and a single 2.5-inch woofer. It, like HomePod, touts seven built-in, beam-forming microphones. The Echo’s tweeter and woofer don’t feature beam-forming technology. Put simply, in terms of sound quality alone the HomePod is going to blow away Amazon’s Echo devices.
That said, if you don’t use Apple Music, the HomePod may not be the right choice for you. While the HomePod only supports on-device streaming from Apple Music, the Amazon Echo works with Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. The HomePod offers on-device streaming of Apple Music and AirPlay audio streaming from supported devices (iOS, macOS, tvOS). The Amazon Echo offers on-device Wi-Fi streaming of supported services as well as Bluetooth streaming from any device. If you don’t have an AirPlay-capable device, the HomePod’s definitely not the right choice for you — without an iOS device, you won’t be able to set it up in the first place!
If you’re looking to add a virtual assistant to your home, the Amazon Echo (and its Alexa voice assistant) will likely provide a better experience. See, folks have been thinking of the HomePod as Apple’s own virtual-assistant-in-a-box, but that’s not what it is. It’s an in-home music listening device that just so happens to have Siri packed in. My colleague Rene Ritchie does a good job explaining it in this tweet:
HomePod was never designed to be an Echo or Google Home competitor.
It was designed to be yang to the AirPods’ yin.
Apple intended Air*Pods* to be the best way to listen to your audio on the go.
Apple intends Home*Pod* to be the best way to listen to your audio at home/work.
— Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) January 26, 2018
Still, you can expect Siri support on HomePod. The speaker — like in-home iPads and Apple TVs — acts as a Home hub and will let you control your HomeKit-enabled lights and accessories. It’s certainly worth noting the HomePod is only going to control HomeKit-enabled accessories; if you’ve got accessories that are missing that “Works with Apple HomeKit” badge, you’ll need a different smart assistant.
Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand, can power a whole swath of connected home products (including most — if not all — HomeKit-enabled accessories).
The Echo offers something called proactivity, too. Amazon Echo can send you ambient notifications by lighting up the LED ring atop its casing. You’ll get notifications of delayed flights, reminders, upcoming appointments, particularly hairy traffic, and more. Apple made no mention of proactive features for HomePod, but the company could update the device with new features at any time.
When it come to price, Amazon has Apple beat on several fronts: One, the device is less expensive. Two, there are multiple options.
Which should you buy?
If you’re big on music listening and want an Apple-made, Wi-Fi-connected speaker with Siri, Apple’s HomePod is probably going to be perfect for you. If you’re not looking for an in-home music listening device (or you don’t care about superb sound quality (or you don’t care as much about music listening as you do about having a smart assistant in your house)), HomePod might not be for you. The Amazon Echo doesn’t sound great, but it’s a fantastic voice-controlled smart device. It also offers multiple on-device music and audio streaming options and proactive notifications. Unless Apple adds more assistant-focused features in the future, the Echo wins as a universally appealing speaker assistant.
What say you?
Have you made your decision? Still have some questions you want answered? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter and I’ll try to get your question answered!
HomePod vs. Amazon Echo: Which should you buy?