Many non-Apple fans were puzzled and in some cases pissed off when Apple announced at the WWDC in June that their smart speaker, the HomePod, will cost $349. If you’re new to the Smart Home game, the reason people are so ticked off is because the current Big Boys in the smart speaker market – Alexa and Google Home – cost just $150 and $109 respectively
However, those two are primarily Smart Assistants with speaker capabilities, while the HomePod is a speaker first. Let’s take a look at why, contrary to popular belief, the HomePod is not expensive just because it’s made by a big, selfish company who wants to make a profit.
It needs to “Rock the House”
Apple says (and I agree with them) that smart speakers these days come in two categories, each with their own problems. The speaker on the left is part of a wireless sound system. It sounds good, but it doesn’t come with a Smart Assistant, so you have to control it with your phone, as opposed to simply speaking to it.
The speaker on the right was the first major smart speaker on the market, the Amazon Echo. The problem with it is that, although it comes with a Smart Assistant, Alexa is here at the sacrifice of a good speaker. Sure, it’s fine if you’re bopping along softly to your favourite tunes while you finish off your homework, but if you’re having a wild party while your parents are out of town? No. It will overload, sound awful, and then all your friends will leave.
Apple’s ultimate goal is to combine the best of both worlds and have a top-model speaker system with a Smart Assistant.
As shown in the image above, it has seven tweeters which form a beam array (more on that later). It also has acoustic horns, which project sound waves from the tweeters down and out. If you’re not familiar with speaker configs, the tweeters are small speakers which handle all the high sounds, like the high notes on a guitar solo.
Up top, we find a woofer, designed by Apple (in California) themselves, with automatic bass equalisation, and dynamic modelling. I have no idea what that means, except that they all make sure that it doesn’t sound weird when you crank up the volume.
Sure, all the others are super-smart when it comes to telling you stuff, but the HomePod is also smart when it comes to playing you stuff. It has something called Spatial Awareness which is AWESOME. Whenever you put it down somewhere, it scans the area around it and determines what sound it should send through what parts of it to make the best sound from where it is. I can’t really say much about it, as I’m a Tech Geek, not a Sound Geek.
Now, when they announced it, Apple gave us a demonstration on how Spatial Awareness works, but unfortunately, this is a free blog (we’re working on that) and we don’t have the capability to embed videos. But, I have the video URL from the time that the demo started so you can watch it for yourself.
This absolute storehouse of sound tech is powered by an A8 chip, that ran the iPhone 6 back in 2014. Now, however, it’s been completely reprogramed to handle real-time acoustic modelling, audio beamforming, and multi channel echo cancellation. I am as clueless as you are, as Apple just said that it “sounds amazing”, and I’m not a sound geek. If you are a sound geek, I would much appreciate you putting an explanation in the comments and I’ll add it and give you credit.
And, that’s why it’s so much more. Apple said that since a smart speaker with their level of features would start at $300 on average, and I think that $49 for Siri isn’t much, do you?