Apple’s entrance into the “smart” speaker market earlier this month was remarkable because of its lateness almost more than anything else: Amazon’s Echo speakers have been around for a few years, Sonos (finally) brought a voice assistant to its Wi-Fi speaker last fall, and even Google managed to sneak in its smart speaker before the end of the year, despite not being a hardware-first company.
But the HomePod launch was also noteworthy because of the approach Apple seems to have taken with it: it’s a high-end audio party in the front, and that whole virtual assistant business has been shoved to the back. The HomePod sounds incredible — really, it does — while Siri speaker can’t tell you what’s next on your calendar or handle more than one timer at a time.
Naturally, this prompts both existential questions about smart speakers (what is it all for?) as well as practical ones. A lot of people just want to know the basics: will it work with my favorite music streaming service? Does it do multiroom audio? How’s the app I’m supposed to use with it? Really, how does it compare to using a great-sounding speaker with an assistant I already use in my house... like a Sonos One with Alexa?
Those are all the questions “we” set out to answer in this week’s episode of Versus. And we hope it helps shed some light on the topic of smart speakers while you’re trying to decide which one to buy — or whether to buy one at all.