A great speaker with frustrating limitations

There’s no shortage of killer smart speakers to talk to Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa over. However, if you’re looking for Apple’s Siri, your only option is to go straight to the source. Apple’s second-generation HomePod is the company’s current flagship smart speaker, offering rich sound and deep ecosystem integration at a price of $300. It’s powerful, but if you don’t live the full Apple lifestyle, the HomePod probably isn’t for you.

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Apple’s second-generation HomePod is an excellent smart speaker for anyone already invested in the Apple ecosystem – including Apple Music.

Apple brand

Dimensions 6.6 x 5.6 x 5.6 inches

Weight 5.5 pounds

Integrations HomeKit, Matter

woofer size 4″

Connectivity 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2, Thread

List price $299

Colors midnight, white


Pros Great sound Attractive, modern design Easy setup Cons Expensive Limited compatibility with music services Requires other Apple devices Price and availability

The second-generation Apple HomePod costs $300. You can get it directly from Apple or at stores like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target. Notably, the HomePod isn’t available on Amazon.

design and hardware

The HomePod isn’t much bigger than Google’s Nest Audio.

Apple’s second-generation HomePod is a 6.6-inch tall, fabric-wrapped cylinder with a small, circular touchscreen on top. At first glance, it looks like the first generation and more than a little like the old “dustbin” Mac Pro.

Unlike the HomePod Mini, which you get in some bright colors, the full-size HomePod only comes in black or white. Again, I would have liked to see the Mini’s more vibrant options, but both colors come with a matching cable, and the simple, rounded design makes it easy to fit into just about any decor.

HomePod’s top-mounted touchscreen is used during setup, but that’s really the only time it transmits visual information (and only to your iPhone or iPad). While the speaker is idle, the display is blank. It lights up when playing media and shows a pleasant, colorful animation when Siri is listening or speaking, but that’s about it. It seems like a missed opportunity to me – certainly this space could show things like media playback info or a visual representation of the weather forecast when asking Siri about the weather, but that’s not the case. Plus and minus symbols are printed on the display glass to indicate touch points for volume control.

Inside, the HomePod’s audio is powered by a 4-inch woofer and five tweeters that deliver rich, satisfying sound (more on that later). It also has four microphones so you can hear yourself yell at Siri. Mine still didn’t understand me when playing media, even at higher volumes.

ecosystem and experience

As is usual with Apple devices, the HomePod is designed to work with other Apple products. All you need is an iPhone or iPad to set up the speaker. However, this setup is incredibly simple: With HomePod, you need to point your Apple device’s camera at the top screen, which transmits all the information the device needs to connect, and with a few taps, HomePod is ready to go.

The HomePod’s preferred music source is, of course, Apple Music. While it’s possible to change the HomePod’s default music service from Apple Music to a handful of others, including Pandora, Deezer, and iHeartRadio, many popular options, including Spotify, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music, are only available via AirPlay. You can’t set them as default and ask Siri to play music through them. Try it, and HomePod will tell you “The app didn’t add Siri support for this.”

It’s not uncommon for smart speakers to default to the services of their manufacturers. Google and Amazon speakers do the same thing. But the fact that the world’s most popular music streaming service, Spotify, is only available via AirPlay seems beyond silly and could turn off many potential buyers. It’s a calculated move by Apple to get people more invested in its ecosystem, and it’s likely to bode well for the company’s bottom line — but for consumers, it’s just an annoying limitation.

That Spotify is only available via AirPlay seems more than silly.

HomePod can use Siri to control smart home devices that are integrated with Apple HomeKit. The selection isn’t quite as wide as what Alexa and Google Home offer; Apple notes that more than 50 brands make HomeKit-compatible products, while Amazon and Google’s ecosystems can connect to devices from thousands of manufacturers.

But HomeKit gets support where it matters: Big brands like Philips Hue, Arlo, Yale, TP-Link and more are all partners. Siri seems to control my connected devices faster than Google Assistant, and turns my Hue lights on and off a beat faster than Google Assistant through my Nest speakers.

The HomePod has temperature and humidity sensors inside that can be integrated into smart home routines to automate tasks based on conditions in the room the speaker is in (e.g. turning on a smart plug when the temperature reaches a certain threshold). You can also just ask HomePod about the ambient temperature and humidity if you want to know them, which can be useful on occasion.

In true Apple ecosystem synergy, you can connect an Apple TV 4K to a compatible TV via eARC to route all TV audio through the HomePod — or a pair of HomePods if you have two. For someone who already owns an Apple TV 4K and is looking to upgrade their TV’s sound, this could be an attractive – albeit pricey – option.


The sound of the second generation HomePod is great. Bass and sub-bass are satisfyingly full without ever being too boomy – Apple says the speaker is equipped with a low-frequency calibration microphone to automatically adjust the bass to the room. That bass swing doesn’t come at the expense of mid-range or treble clarity either; Snare drums have a satisfying pop and vocals are airy and clear.

When playing Apple Music, HomePod is capable of both lossless playback and Dolby Atmos spatial audio. Of course, when a single speaker is playing audio from a stationary location, spatial audio doesn’t mean much – even with a bank of tweeters and some software magic, a HomePod can’t convincingly fake “spatial” sound.

And when I switch back and forth between the same tracks on both services, I have a really hard time telling the difference between Apple Music’s lossless tracks with Atmos and Spotify’s regular legacy tracks when the quality is set to Very High is. More discerning listeners might appreciate the subtle differences, and the effect is certainly more impactful with a stereo pair of HomePods, but for casual listening through a single speaker — the kind of listening I think smart speakers are most commonly used for — it makes little difference.

You can’t adjust HomePod’s equalizer; The only manual change Apple allows is the binary “Reduce Bass” toggle. That’s handy for late-night listening when you don’t want to disturb others, but it falls short of the personalization offered by most other smart speakers.


Priced at $300, the HomePod competes at the higher end of the smart speaker category. The closest Alexa-based alternative is probably Amazon’s $200 Echo Studio. The Studio is significantly cheaper and easier to integrate with other services, including Spotify and Amazon Music. It has both Bluetooth connectivity and a 3.5mm line-in – the HomePod has neither. However, it doesn’t offer the tight integration with the Apple ecosystem like the HomePod and doesn’t support AirPlay.

The HomePod is meant to exist within the Apple ecosystem, interacting with Apple hardware and software in ways that other manufacturers’ speakers just can’t.

There’s also the $250 Sonos Era 100, which, like the Echo, offers access to Alexa and all the perks that come with it, plus Bluetooth, line-in via an optional accessory, and AirPlay support. And of course, the Era 100 syncs with any other Sonos speakers you have nearby. But again, you can’t pair it with an Apple TV for home theater audio output, or stream music from your iPhone to the speaker simply by bringing the two close together like you can with the HomePod. Still, the Era 100 is a more flexible option at a slightly cheaper price.

But really, the HomePod is meant to exist within the Apple ecosystem, interacting with Apple hardware and software in ways that other manufacturers’ speakers just can’t. If you know you want what HomePod offers but don’t want to shell out $300 for it, HomePod Mini is the only cheaper analog device that offers the same features as the full version, just with less powerful audio output.

Should you buy it?

The second generation HomePod is a powerful smart speaker with an attractive, minimalist look. If you’re an avid Apple user — meaning you carry an iPhone, regularly interact with Siri, stream music through Apple Music, and maybe have an Apple TV — you’ll find HomePod a lot to love. In fact, it should probably be your number one choice when it comes to premium smart speakers.

However, unless you happen to have subscribed to one of the music services supported by the HomePod, it’s a bit of a hassle to use. The only way to put Spotify on the device is through AirPlay, which of course is not accessible at all from the Android app. If, like me, you’re a part-time Apple user, use an Android phone and a MacBook or iPad, and get your music through Spotify or Amazon, the HomePod is still a good speaker. But the experience isn’t nearly as compelling — or worth the price.

Apple HomePod (2nd generation)

Apple’s second-generation HomePod is an excellent smart speaker for anyone already invested in the Apple ecosystem – including Apple Music.