Barkings! | The SmallDog Apple Blog

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You know that I have a lot of gadgets at my house. So many, that at times Grace gets frustrated with all the home automation stuff. When we have our dog sitter come to stay Grace doesn’t even tell her how to talk to Siri or Alexa. Nevertheless, I have both of those assistants hanging out in my house listening to my every word.

I grabbed one of the first HomePods that we received and set it up in my office at my house. I will definitely be bringing it back to Vermont with me. The HomePod is the best yet both in terms of the sound quality and the integration with my home. I had also tried a Google Home unit some time ago but it was so bad that I sold it on eBay.

Let’s talk music first. I have a lot of ways to interact with my music. I have Sonos everywhere including the Alexa-enabled Play One and with their voice interface with Amazon Alexa it is easy to request music from a variety of sources. In terms of content, at this point I think that Amazon/Sonos has the broadest selection. I can get songs from Pandora, Apple Music or Spotify. I can also get content from Audible and Tune-in.

But I have a pretty large music collection after spending hours/days digitizing all my CDs and spending a lot of money buying from the iTunes store. I also subscribe to Apple Music so I literally have access to more music than I could listen to in my life. So, what sounds the best? HomePod! It is clear to me that the HomePod has better sound quality, deeper bass and clearer sound than the Sonos Play One by a hair and it is not even close when comparing the sound to the tinny Amazon Echo. It is reggae Thursday at my office every Thursday and I just say “Hey Siri, play me some reggae” and she says “sure thing, here’s some reggae just for you”. The play list that results is tailored to me by learning what I like. I can say, “Siri, I really like this song” and she says “okay, I got it” and that helps to fine tune the music the HomePod plays for me. You can even add songs to a playlist or create a playlist by interacting with Siri.

I can tell Siri to pause or stop if I can a call and it is instantaneous which is handy because it is not always party time at the office.

So, with all the technology I have, when I am listening to music in my office it is HomePod now. It is not quite up to the Sonos Play 5s in my bedroom but the sound fills my office perfectly as it automatically adjusts to my room to provide me with optimal sound.

For music I give the nod to HomePod based upon sound quality, intelligence and ease of use. I give the nod to Sonos/Amazon for the breadth of content.

HomePod also serves as your HomeKit server. When I activated my HomePod and got it on my network, I literally had to do nothing to make it take over the HomeKit tasks. It was automatic. While I will probably still keep my AppleTV powered up you do not need an AppleTV or iPad to have remote access to your HomeKit devices.

The integration with HomeKit makes it simple to use. I can simply say “ Hey Siri, turn on the office lights” and she does it. I can also ask her to turn the thermostat up, lock the doors or do any of the tasks that are HomeKit compatible. I also have scenes that mostly work. I say mostly because as a security feature Siri will not unlock your doors so my “good morning” scene requires my iPhone but that security feature is appreciated. I can probably figure out a workaround but I like the security. My other most used scene is “good night”. When I say “hey Siri, good night” she turns off all the lights except the one next to my bed, turns down the thermostat and locks all three doors. She then says “on it!”. I have to say that Siri’s responses are friendlier and hipper than Alexa.

Of course, you can do much of this with Amazon Alexa but it would take multiple commands and Alexa just seems a lot finickier with names of devices. Because HomePod is connected to my network, I can also unlock (with iPhone) and lock my house in Vermont remotely.

Getting information from Siri is pretty much the same as using Siri on your other devices. I find her answers to be more complete than Alexa but again there is more breadth to Alexa’s database. I have heard that Apple has made a bunch of new hires for Siri and I fully expect that Apple is working hard to show Alexa that she is just as smart. Artificial intelligence is just in its infancy and it is pretty exciting to see what it can do. A bit scary, too but unless we start making Terminators we should be okay.

Later this year as Apple continues development of the HomePod you will be able to add a second HomePod to create stereo sound or use Airplay 2 to play the same music (or different music) is separate rooms. This will give Sonos a bit of competition.

HomePod has some other tricks, too. You can receive a call on your iPhone and hand it off to the HomePod for a conference call —we might have to use HomePod in our conference room. When you receive a text, Siri can read it to you on HomePod. You can tell Siri to send texts, make shopping lists, add stuff to your calendar and I am sure this is just the start of Siri’s skills.

After a few weeks with HomePod I can give it my full endorsement. If I had to have just one music device I would choose HomePod for its versatility, sound quality and because of how seamlessly it integrates with my other Apple devices.

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