apple cares for one A lot about music. Steve Jobs loved it so much that he invented the iPod and iTunes so we could take all of this anywhere, and personally owned a thousand-dollar Swedish speaker in his humble living room . Today, Apple Music remains one of the best-sounding streaming services you can subscribe to, thanks to lossless audio support. The headphones it makes, both on their own and through Beats, are fantastic.
Sadly, the company still hasn’t been able to make a great full-size smart speaker. Not only is the recently revamped HomePod a near-perfect visual recreation of the discontinued 2018 model, but it barely has any audio improvements. The new HomePod has fewer audio drivers, is still incompatible with Spotify and other popular services, and still can’t communicate with anything other than an Apple device when your friend is over. The full-color screen at the top is bigger, but it can’t convey any more than the blue stripes on the Amazon Echo.
In 2018, such shortcomings are acceptable as long as the voice assistant works and the speakers fill your room with sound. But considering there are so many good competitors in different shapes and sizes, it’s hard to let the HomePod slip. The smaller HomePod Mini already implements the same Siri voice controls (if you prefer Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, they’re objectively better), and offers enough sound quality for those who just want to play some tunes.
Unless you’re paying $600 for two HomePods to listen to in stereo, the sound quality isn’t that great, with heavy bass and less clarity in the mids. You can get the same “I’m playing music” feeling for less money from a smaller model, or any number of competitors. If you want high-end sound, you won’t find it here.
new marshmallows, same shape
Visually, the new HomePod is slightly chunkier than the old one, a chubby little marshmallow about 7 inches tall. Otherwise, the main differences you’ll notice are the larger screen at the top, and the integrated volume up and down buttons. Say “Hey Siri” and Apple’s voice assistant wakes up with a blob of colorful plasma on the top screen to let you know she’s listening.
One difference that many who remember the older model will welcome is the detachable power cord, which allows buyers to thread it through sometimes tiny holes in furniture. That last one is missing this and pissing off a lot of custom furniture.
Like the previous model, the new one comes in two colors: white and midnight, a slightly darker black than the previous model. Some early reports indicate that the white model, like the previous model, leaves ring-shaped stains on the wood when left on wooden surfaces. I don’t have that problem, but I still get a black one; Apple’s white fabric tends to pick up dust and wear over the years.
Made for iPhone
As with the previous model, it’s a breeze to set up. Hold a recent-model iPhone (with the latest software installed) close to this thing, and the HomePod will instantly recognize it and set it up. As long as your phone is signed into Apple Music, you can tell it which room it’s in, and you’re ready to play. You won’t get Spotify, YouTube Music, Tidal, or Amazon Music compatibility here, but the HomePod does support Pandora, Deezer, TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, and more. You can use AirPlay to play unsupported services on the speakers, but it’s a pretty annoying workaround and requires guests to have iPhones.