Apple finally released the HomePod smart speaker this month, but it’s not looking like the device to buy.
Before the HomePod, other smart speakers like Google Home, Amazon’s Echo, and the Sonos One were playing music from Spotify, Google Music, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, and other streaming services. The HomePod is the first to let you control Apple Music with your voice, but that’s it.
If you don’t use Apple Music, there is no reason to buy a HomePod.
The HomePod does seem to have one thing going for it, though. I haven’t heard it myself, but the HomePod supposedly has the best sound out of any other smart speaker.
But what’s the point of a great-sounding smart speaker if you don’t use the “smart” part? You might as well just buy a great regular speaker if you use something like Spotify – or better yet, a smart speaker that can control Spotify with your voice, like, say, the Sonos One.
Here are all the reasons you should consider the Sonos One instead of Apple’s HomePod.
1. The Sonos One sounds amazing.
I haven’t tried the HomePod, but the consensus is that it sounds very good. Some say the audio quality is even better than on the Sonos One.
That’s great, but I can safely say that the Sonos One sounds amazing too. One of my favourite things about it is that music sounds rich and full, with deep bass even at low volumes.
So even if Apple’s HomePod does have superior sound – you’d have to test it to judge – you still won’t be disappointed with the quality of the Sonos One.
2. Unlike with the HomePod, you can control a bunch of different music-streaming services on the Sonos One using your voice.
Amazon’s Alexa assistant built into the Sonos One lets me use my voice to play and control music from all sorts of music services, including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Sirius XM, and TuneIn. The Sonos One is even compatible with Apple Music, but without voice control.
The HomePod, on the other hand, doesn’t let you use voice control for any other music service besides Apple Music.
If you want a speaker that has voice control for any of these other services, the HomePod won’t make sense for you. For example, I wouldn’t be able to ask Siri on the HomePod to play NPR from iHeartRadio, as I usually do with the Sonos One, or to play music from Spotify.
3. The Sonos One works with Amazon’s Alexa, which is more capable than the HomePod’s Siri.
Alexa on the Sonos One doesn’t quite have all the features you’d find on Amazon’s Echo devices. It’s much the same with Siri on the HomePod, which isn’t the “full-fat” Siri from iOS or macOS devices.
Still, even on the Sonos One, Alexa is far more flexible and capable than Siri is on the HomePod. Both Alexa and Siri can do the basics, but on the Sonos One, you have access to several thousand Alexa skills that range from humorous to productive.
4. The Sonos One will work with Google Assistant soon too.
Sonos says it will add support for Google Assistant sometime this year, giving you the option to use Google’s smart assistant if you prefer it to Amazon’s Alexa, as well as Google’s music-streaming service.
Meanwhile, if you buy a HomePod, you’re stuck with Siri.
5. The Sonos One will also get AirPlay 2 so you can use it to play any audio from iOS and macOS devices.
You can already use a mobile device to play Apple Music on a Sonos One, but Sonos says it will add support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 this year.
What does that mean? Basically, that you’ll be able to use the Sonos One as a wireless external speaker for all audio coming from your iOS and macOS devices, including from videos.
6. The Sonos One works with any smartphone. The HomePod? Not so much.
To set up the HomePod, you’ll need an iOS device, even though Apple Music has an app for Android phones.
So even if you’re an Android user with Apple Music, you won’t be able to set up the HomePod unless you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod running iOS 11.2.5.
Meanwhile, the Sonos One can be set up with both kinds of devices with the Sonos app for iOS or Android.
On top of that, the HomePod uses AirPlay to play music from third-party services like Spotify from a mobile device, meaning you can use only an iOS or macOS device with the HomePod, whereas the Sonos One can play a wide variety of streaming services from any device.
7. A single Sonos One costs $US150 less than the HomePod.
A single Sonos One speaker costs less, is more versatile and flexible, and has great sound.
8. For a limited time, Sonos is offering two Sonos One speakers for $US350 — the price of one HomePod.
With two Sonos One speakers, you can have stereo music in one room or play the same music in different rooms.
Apple doesn’t yet offer the stereo or multiroom HomePod feature, but it says it’s coming later this year.
So why would anyone buy the HomePod?
The HomePod is for those who are all-in with the Apple ecosystem. They own an iPhone and probably a Mac computer and/or an iPad. They use Siri. And they also use Apple Music exclusively.
Still, even these Apple users won’t be able to use their voice to stream third-party audio apps – like the radio apps I like to use for NPR – so keep that in mind before making your purchase.