Apple cares a lot about music. Steve Jobs liked it so much that he invented the iPod and iTunes so we could take it everywhere with us and became the owner thousands of Swedish speakers in his sparsely decorated living room. To this day, Apple Music is one of the best streaming services you can subscribe to thanks to its lossless audio support. The headphones she makes, both herself and through Beats, are pretty much fantastic.
It’s a pity that the company still can’t make a great full-sized smart speaker. Not only is the newly updated HomePod a near-perfect visual reproduction of the discontinued 2018 model, but it features virtually no audio enhancements. The new HomePod has fewer audio drivers, remains incompatible with Spotify and other popular services, and still can’t communicate with anything other than Apple devices when your friends are gone. The full-color screen at the top is larger, but it can’t convey more information than the Amazon Echo’s blue bar.
In 2018, weaknesses like this were acceptable as long as the voice assistant worked and the speaker could fill your room with sound. But with so many great competitors currently out there in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it’s hard to pass up the HomePod. The smaller HomePod Mini already does the same Siri voice control (if you prefer it to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, which are objectively better) and offers more than enough audio quality for people who just want to turn on their music.
Unless you spend $600 on two HomePods to listen to stereo sound, the sound quality isn’t all that great, with strong bass and not very clear mids. You can get the same “music playing” feeling from a smaller model, or from any number of competitors for less money. If you’re looking for high quality audio, you won’t find it here.
New marshmallow, same shape
Physically, the new HomePod is a bit squatter than the old model, a fat little marshmallow about 7 inches tall. Otherwise, the main difference you’ll notice is the larger screen at the top with built-in volume up and down buttons. Say “Hey Siri” and Apple’s voice assistant will wake up and a splash of colorful plasma will appear on the top screen to let you know it’s listening.
One difference that will appeal to many who remember the old model is the detachable power cable, which allows buyers to thread it through sometimes small holes in furniture. The latter lacked this, and many people were annoyed by non-standard furniture.
Like the previous model, the new one is available in two colors: white and midnight, which is slightly darker than black than the previous one. Some early reports indicated that the white model, like last, stains wood with rings if left on wooden surfaces. I didn’t have that problem, but I’d still take the black one; The white fabric of Apple has been stained with dust and wear over the years.
Made for iPhone
As with the previous model, setup is very simple. Bring the latest iPhone (with the latest software) to your device and HomePod will instantly recognize and set it up. You tell him what room he’s in and you go racing if your phone is already registered with Apple Music. You won’t get compatibility with Spotify, YouTube Music, Tidal, or Amazon Music here, but HomePod supports Pandora, Deezer, TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, and more. You can use AirPlay to play unsupported services on the speaker, but this is a rather annoying workaround and requires guests to have an iPhone.