“After missing its holiday shipping deadline, Apple is almost ready to release the HomePod, its new smart speaker — something like the Amazon Echo or Sonos One,” David Pogue writes for Yahoo Tech. “Apple hasn’t yet let reviewers take one home for testing. But this week, it did something uncharacteristic and a little weird: It invited us to one-on-one listening sessions in a Manhattan corporate apartment.”

“The HomePod joins a long list of smart speakers, starting with the original, the Amazon Echo ($100); Google, Sonos, Harmon Kardan [sic], and others make them, too” Pogue writes. “But Apple has tried to differentiate the HomePod, and justify its high price ($350), by giving it better sound than any competitor — and in that, it has succeeded.”

“In a devastatingly effective demo, Apple lines up four of these things: The Google Home Max ($400), Sonos One ($200), Amazon Echo ($100), and the HomePod. They’re volume-matched and rigged to an A/B/C/D switch, so a single song can hop from one to the other,” Pogue writes. “The HomePod sounded the best… The Amazon Echo is a much smaller, slimmer device, one-third the price, so it’s forgiven for sounding thin compared with the HomePod. The Sonos One came awfully close to the HomePod’s rich sound; you’d really have to hear the A/B test to declare a difference. The real shock was the Google Home Max, a massive, 12-pound machine that’s supposed to be all about the sound; it sounded like cardboard compared with the HomePod and Sonos.”

Apple's all-new HomePod

Apple’s all-new HomePod

“The HomePod is not multi-room yet,” Pogue writes. “(That will come later in the year, Apple says.) You can’t even buy two HomePods and get stereo, as you can with is rivals. (That’s coming soon, too — which is good, because in a ‘preview’ demo, Apple played me two HomePods in stereo, and they sounded incredible. You could close your eyes and imagine a pair of expensive tower speakers.)

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: HomePod is for Apple Music subscribers and iOS users. Pogue’s blaming Siri for being not “smart” for being unable (unwilling is more like it) to play competing streaming services via voice, but only via AirPlay from an iOS device, doesn’t strike us as very fair.

Apple HomePod debuts with strong sales; 45% of buyers are iPhone X owners, 92% of buyers were male – February 2, 2018
How will Sonos compete against Apple’s HomePod? – February 2, 2018
Apple’s HomePod speaker requires an iOS device to work – February 2, 2018
Apple reveals all of HomePod’s supported audio sources – February 1, 2018
Apple’s HomePod, the iPod for your home – January 25, 2018
One hour with Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker – January 25, 2018
Apple’s iOS 11.3 beta delivers AirPlay 2 with multi-room playback – January 25, 2018
How Apple is positioning the HomePod and why – January 24, 2018
Tim Cook says audio quality puts HomePod ahead of ‘squeaky-sounding’ competition – January 24, 2018
Apple’s HomePod arrives February 9th, available to order this Friday, January 26th – January 23, 2018
Apple delays HomePod release to early 2018 – November 17, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017