Apple’s New HomePod Is better in Intelligence and Sound Experience

On Wednesday, Apple introduced its new and improved version of HomePod, which has been two years in the making since discontinuing the first generation. CNET was present at the launch event in New York City to test the speaker’s sound quality. The new HomePod boasts advanced acoustics and new smart home features including sensors for temperature and humidity, as well as the ability to detect smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

apple homepod
provided by CNET

The recently unveiled new HomePod and the existing HomePod Mini both utilize Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, to respond to “Hey, Siri” commands. The new HomePod, similarly named to the previous model, can now be pre-ordered at the Apple Store for $299, £299, or AU$479, and will be released on February 3rd. It will be available in both black and white color options.

Apple HomePod 2nd Gen

The new HomePod shares a similar design to the original full-size HomePod, with dimensions of 6.6 inches in height and 5.6 inches in width. However, it comes with several upgrades. The new speaker features a custom-designed woofer and five tweeters that use beamforming to enhance audio quality and create a more immersive listening experience, as per Apple. Users can link two HomePod speakers to create a stereo pair, but both speakers must be of the same model. It’s not possible to create a stereo pair using an original HomePod and a new one. Additionally, multiple HomePods can be connected throughout the home for multi-room audio with AirPlay 2.

New Apple HomePod Features

The new HomePod speaker also supports Spatial Audio, which is Apple’s term for 360-degree audio effects that include Dolby Atmos music available on Apple Music. Dolby Atmos is a surround sound standard used in movie theaters and homes, and has been used to remix albums.

Additionally, the speaker has new smart home features, one of them being Smart Recognition, which is a feature that will be available through a software update this spring and can listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and sends a notification directly to the user’s iPhone if an alarm is detected. The speaker also has sensors for temperature and humidity, allowing users to set up triggers to automatically close the blinds or turn on a fan when the room reaches a certain temperature.

The new full-sized HomePod also supports the new Matter standard, an open-source protocol that works with various smart home devices, in addition to Apple’s HomeKit.

The temperature and humidity sensor and Smart Recognition features will also be available for the HomePod Mini.

Provided by CNET

Users can move their iPhone close to the speaker to transfer audio, such as a song, podcast or voice call, to the speaker. This feature requires iOS 16.3. The phone will also display personalized song and podcast suggestions when held near the speaker. The HomePod also has Apple’s Find My feature, allowing users to ask Siri to play a sound on a misplaced device or ask for the location of friends or family members who have shared it via the Find My app.

Owners of the Apple TV 4K streaming device can also use the HomePod as their TV speaker for all devices connected to the TV, thanks to eARC linking via HDMI, and can control the Apple TV hands-free with Siri voice commands heard by a HomePod.

One of our reporter had the opportunity to experience the new HomePod at Apple’s launch event and offers his in-person perspective.

He states that it’s difficult to assess the speaker’s sound quality during a demo and will reserve his final thoughts until he has the opportunity to review the unit himself. However, he generally found the song snippets he heard to sound good and believes the speaker will appeal to people who own, owned or were interested in the original HomePod.

During the event, which began with some pop music, he was surprised to find that the speaker sounded small despite offering 360-degree surround sound and the audio seemed to be confined to the speaker itself. The company then played a track called Boomerang by Yebba to highlight the HomePod’s spatial audio compatibility, but Ty found the swirling effect to be not very obvious.

The most impressive part of the demo, according to reporter, was when the company added a second speaker, creating a stereo pair with the HomePod. He noticed that when playing Mystery Lady by Masego and Don Toliver, the sound palette immediately expanded, not just by creating a stereo field, but also by having a percussion effect that could be heard outside of the physical location of the speakers.

Finally, he mentions that when he heard the original HomePod back in 2017, the company used the live version of The Eagles’ Hotel California to showcase its bass response. However, during the demonstration, the bass drum at around one minute into the song resulted in an unintentional terrible sound, with the huge drum appearing to overload the speaker and producing a “blet” sound.

But during the recent event, he noticed that there were no such issues and the drum sounded enormous and deep as the company intended.

Apple HomePod Price

The new $299 HomePod will enter a competitive market, as Apple has been rumored to be working on a “HomePod 2” since at least June 2022. This will only be the company’s fourth speaker in the last 20 years, with the other three being the iPod Hi-Fi, the original $350 Apple HomePod and the current HomePod Mini, which is still sold for $99.

It will compete directly with higher-end smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo Studio and Sonos One, both of which cost $200. Meanwhile, the current HomePod Mini is priced similarly to Google’s larger Nest Audio, but is less expensive than the $49 Google Nest Mini and most Amazon Echo models.

While Apple’s Siri voice assistant is dominant in mobile, the company has struggled to achieve the same success in the smart speaker market. In terms of competition, Amazon’s Echo series and Google Nest speakers are the main players in the market.

We are looking forward to reviewing the new Apple HomePod soon.

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