Siri-us business: Everything you need to know about Apple's new HomePod

Siri-us business: Everything you need to know about Apple's new HomePod

Amazon and Google have had longer to establish voice recognition in their devices, thus it is perhaps not surprising that the Apple HomePod is inferior in quality here. Apple has marketed the HomePod as a smart "musicologist" for the home since it was revealed at the Worldwide Developers Conference last June in San Jose.

One of the unanswered questions leading up to HomePod's launch has been how Apple's retail stores will display the speaker. For instance, the HomePod is only compatible with Apple devices. Before turning the stage over to Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller, Cook said that the company had made a decision to "reinvent home music", a lofty goal indeed. If you want to invest in a smart speaker, go with Alexa or Google's Home speaker system instead.

It's useful if you're out of Siri's hearing range, but it's hardly as straightforward as other smart speakers make it.

Inside, eight speakers are controlled by a powerful processor.

HomePod was delayed from its original December release date until today, which initial reports blamed on unspecified software issues, and later reports suggested were due to problems with multi-HomePod synchronization - specifically two units in one room, or more units across a house.

A slew of reviews for Apple's new smart speaker HomePod dropped on Tuesday, and they all come to the same conclusion: It's good - if you can afford it and only use Apple products such as the iPhone and services such as Apple Music. Google's Assistant is also found on its smartphones, while Apple naturally enough relies on the Siri system that is resident in the iconic iPhone series.

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In my own home, I have Amazon's Echo Dot system. What about users who switch from Apple to Android?

The share of Google Home is projected at 21.6%, ranking the second.

Siri data is retained - to help tailor music recommendations and other actions - but only on your device, not on Apple's central servers. These controls allow you to play, pause, skip a song, or adjust the volume with a single tap, in addition to voice controls. Seven microphones - six for Siri and one for automatic bass correction - detect the surrounding walls and space, ensuring sound quality is solid regardless of where you are in a room. The Google Home Max also comes with the Voice Match feature, which personalizes Google Assistant information based on the person in the household. But you're far more limited in what you can hear outside Apple's ecosystem, unless you bring your phone or tablet and exploit Apple's AirPlay wireless streaming technology.

For sure, HomePod's $349 price will be a disqualifier for some of you.

A number of features have yet to arrive before HomePod feels feature-complete. The HomePod also exclusively uses Apple Music, so Spotify and Pandora users won't be able to control their music from the HomePod, limiting the device's broader appeal.

The hands-free options the HomePod offers are wide ranging; in the right office environment, the device can add convenience, save time, and improve productivity, not to mention morale. If requested, it should also be able to preclude unauthorized sharing of personal information such as one user's messages and calls with people other than that person. A true stereo mode would be great, too.