Apple HomePod Now Accessible in US, UK, and Australia

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With the Apple HomePod speaker system having finally been released, now is the ideal time to make the Apple HomePod vs. "Seriously." when Apple Music launched in 2015.

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced HomePod last June at WWDC 2017, saving it for the traditionally important "one last thing" slot at the end of his speech.

Schiller explained that Sonos made good-sounding whole-home wireless speakers that weren't "smart speakers", while Amazon made "smart speakers you can talk to", but didn't sound great for music. But it must be said that the Amazon device delivers the best AI capabilities.

Select Apple Authorised Resellers, including Best Buy in the US; Argos, Dixons Carphone (Currys PC World), John Lewis, Shop Direct (Very and Littlewoods), EE and Apple Premium Resellers in the United Kingdom; and The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Myer and Telstra in Australia, have also started selling the HomePod locally.

Inside, eight speakers are controlled by a powerful processor. Early reviewers of HomePod noted that even though stereo pairing is not yet available, audio quality was unexpectedly satisfying and 9to5Mac's Ben Lovejoy believes it to be a Sonos Play 5 killer.

The audio quality between the two is very close, though I'd give a slight edge to Apple. Google's Assistant is also found on its smartphones, while Apple naturally enough relies on the Siri system that is resident in the iconic iPhone series.

How does Apple´s HomePod compare to Amazon Echo and Google Home? If you want to do the same on the HomePod, you'll need to use the AirPlay feature streamed from another Apple device. At least for well-heeled Apple die-hards who share my passion for all kinds of music.

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How does it compare with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Sonos One?

You can, however, control smart lights, blinds and other appliances with Siri if they're compatible withApple's smart home platform, HomeKit.

The set-up process is less cumbersome than for the Echo or Google Home, which use a companion app and require some WiFi network selection. Admittedly, this fine-tuning will come in the way of software updates in the future, but the fact remains that Google Home still dominates voice search and functionality. It is capable of making calls, controlling smart home accessories, providing travel information, translating words into multiple languages, looking up recipes, offering nutrition guidance, answering trivia questions, looking up stocks, and telling jokes. Others prefer subtle white noise or unobtrusive ambient music play in offices to improve their concentration, provide some privacy, and mute varied conversations, HVAC sounds, and other environmental noises that are common in offices. It is notable that the three mega-corporations have all released speaker systems, but how do they stack up against one another?

A number of features have yet to arrive before HomePod feels feature-complete.

Again, Apple's insistence on forcing its users into its walled garden limits the device's appeal (you better make sure you're ready to cough up for an Apple Music subscription to get the most out of the HomePod, for example).

Despite the impressive music set-up, the HomePod does have some limitations. Whether you need a current stock price, seek the result of a calculation, wish to set a reminder or record a task, or must send a message, the HomePod can help you perform all those tasks hands-free. And it's an acknowledgement that, like it or not, there are going to be multiple parties in this space. If requested, it should also be able to preclude unauthorized sharing of personal information such as one user's messages and calls with people other than that person.

Two weeks ago, Apple invited me to a "listening party" for its new HomePod speaker in downtown Manhattan.

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