Since Amazon debuted the Echo a couple of years back, “smart speakers” have become a hugely popular product category. Combining an artificially intelligent voice assistant with a half-decent Bluetooth speaker turned out to be a great match, and the Echo has gone from strength to strength. No wonder other companies want a slice of the pie.
Google didn’t take long to enter the arena with its Home speaker, and Apple unveiled a similar product of its own earlier this year: HomePod. It was introduced as a premium product with advanced music capabilities compared to Amazon and Google’s efforts and promised for release in December 2017.
Well, it’s bad news for Apple fans hoping to pick one up in time for Christmas. HomePod has been officially delayed until “early 2018,” giving its competitors a huge edge in the holiday market. With Amazon offering Echo cheaper than ever, it’s going to be difficult for Apple to draw customers away from the Alexa-powered Amazon smart speakers.
If you’ve yet to dip into this market and are curious to know which to plump for, here are a few of the key differences between Apple’s upcoming HomePod and Amazon’s Echo. (We’ve left Google Home out of the comparison for now as we think it has less to offer iOS users.)
HomePod is controlled via Siri, so it will be familiar to those with an iPhone or iPad. Echo has a similar voice assistant called Alexa, and can be configured further using the iOS Alexa app.
HomePod will tie into the Apple ecosystem. That means support for iMessage, iCloud, and Apple Music to name a few. Echo has better support for third-party “skills,” including Spotify and others, but won’t integrate directly with most of Apple’s services.
HomePod will control smart home devices that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. Echo has a headstart here and is currently compatible with more smart devices.
HomePod promises impressive high-fidelity sound quality with intelligent room-filling spatial awareness. Echo‘s speaker quality varies depending on the model you choose, but will sound best plugged into an external hi-fi system.
HomePod will debut for a wallet-emptying $349/£349, due (according to Apple) to its high-end audio capabilities. Echo‘s standard model is just $100/£90, with other editions available for various prices. None come close to the price of the HomePod though.
HomePod will be available “early 2018” in the US, UK, and Australia. Other regions will get it later. Echo is available now in the US and, at the time of writing, heavily discounted in the UK. It’s also available in select other markets.