Hardware

There are a whole bunch of smart speakers out there and choosing one can be a bit overwhelming. Amazon is the big player in this game, with its popular range of Echo devices. But with Apple entering the fray very soon with its HomePod, a product intended to “reinvent home music,” we thought we’d highlight the key differences between the two.

Though both combine a voice assistant with a Bluetooth speaker, there are wide variations in sound quality and integration with your favorite services.  If you’ve yet to dip into this market and are curious to know which product to plump for, take a look through this comparison and concentrate on any topics of importance to you.

Everyone’s choice will be personal; maybe you care about music streaming but don’t care for smart home integration, or vice versa. But a little knowledge goes a long way, and this guide should help you decide whether or not to wait for the HomePod or pick up an Echo in time for Christmas.

HomePod vs. Echo

Voice control

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.

Apps and skills

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,” but won’t integrate directly with most of Apple’s services.

HomePod promises to “rock the house” with its high sound quality

Music control

HomePod will work with an Apple Music subscription, but it’s unlikely to support any other major streaming services at launch. Echo won’t work with Apple Music, but does support Spotify and Amazon’s own Prime Music service.

Sound quality

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.

Smart home

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.

Echo has the edge in the smart home

Pricing

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.

Choice

HomePod exists as a single high-end product, in either white or black. Echo actually covers many devices with various finishes, from the dirt cheap Echo Dot to the screen-integrating Echo Show.

Availability

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 the UK. It’s also available in select other markets.

Alternatives

Although we’ve focused on Apple’s HomePod and Amazon’s Echo here, there are plenty more smart speakers out there. Two in particular are worthy of note, and may even be better suited to you.

Google Home

Like Amazon, Google makes range of devices pitched at different levels, from the low-priced Home Mini up to the expensive Home Max that promises seriously good sound quality.

 

Speak to the assistant with “OK Google”

The real reason you might consider one of these over the alternatives, though, is for the Google Assistant. Critics tend to rate its capabilities higher than Siri and Alexa, especially if you use a lot of Google services like Gmail and Google Calendar. It also has support for Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Music, which is a plus if you use any of those to stream music.

That said, it won’t play nice with the Apple ecosystem so don’t expect many of your iOS services – including Apple Music – to work with Google Home.

Sonos One

This is one of several smart speakers that puts Amazon’s voice assistant into hardware from a third-party company. In this case, premium speaker-makers Sonos.

 

A beefy Alexa-powered speaker

The result is a device offering seriously impressive audio quality combined with Alexa’s smarts. However, compared with the Echo, Alexa appears here in somewhat hampered form. Its integration is patchy, with many useful skills missing. Also, if you already own some Sonos speakers you’ll be surprised to know that Sonos One won’t pair with them for stereo sound or multi-room audio.

If you already own some beefy speakers, a better option might be to plug an Echo Dot into your existing setup. But for those whose primary concern is room-filling sound, you could do a lot worse than Sonos One.