Apple details the energy use of its always-on HomePod speaker

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Apple's HomePod retails at $349USD which is a pretty hefty price for a Bluetooth speaker, even with the Apple A8 chip and extra tech features. From all outward appearances, HomePod is an excellent speaker. But what are their particular qualities, and what do they do well and badly? A speaker and a home assistant, it's a little on the pricier side of the scale for £320. In reality, this is still something of a hit and miss attempt to deliver AI in a portable format.

Audio is just one component of a smart speaker, and while Siri can do a lot, it's limited when compared to Alexa and Google Assistant. The Amazon Echo and the Google Home sound good, but the HomePod elevates sound to another level. Amazon Echo has 69% of the installed base, or 31 million units, while Google Home has 31%, or 14 million units, the research group said. And because Apple has done literally nothing in explaining how it works with Apple TV to a wider audience, we have great doubts this will be a victor. Both somewhat resemble air freshener containers, and their appearance can be described as bulbous. With fabric, plastic and metallic finishes available, the Amazon Echo provides far more choice to consumers.

Start and control your music with your voice.

Following months of anticipation Apple has released HomePod, a product promised to have "the power to rock the house" thanks to its use of seven beamforming tweeters, and a large bass woofer. Apple's diminutive speaker even made the ubiquitous Disney mega-hit "Let It Go" from Frozen sound fresh, with impressively crisp piano notes and ideal vocals. There's no word on the device's potential availability in other countries yet. If your computer is a Mac and your smartphone is an iPhone - and you wouldn't have it any other way - then the HomePod's cost probably doesn't even bother you.

Apple is now taking pre-orders for the HomePod, but there is some confusion as to whether services like Spotify and devices the Apple TV can be used with the speaker.

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An update coming later this year will let you link two HomePods together for stereo sound, much like competitor speakers.

Apple has always placed a premium on design, and the HomePod is no exception. The same songs played on the Google Home Max sounded oddly muddy. They are activated in rather similar fashion, and essentially meant to provide answers to everyday queries.

And doesn't that kind of defeat the goal of having a voice-controlled smart speaker?

This year, 30 million people in the US will use an Amazon Echo, according to eMarketer, up 23% over last year. It has built-in Siri, six microphones and HomeKit support to control compatible smart home devices.

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