The Apple HomePod has finally landed in India. The smart speaker, powered by the Siri virtual assistant, will battle with Amazon’s Echo line-up of smart speakers and Google’s Nest line-up. Probably less of the latter, but most certainly has the Amazon Echo Studio in its sights. Apple has priced the HomePod at Rs 19,900 and will be available in Space Grey as well as White colour options. In fact, this makes it the most affordable for the HomePod anywhere in the world, and is lower than the $299 (around Rs 21,200) price in the US market.
Three years ago, when Apple launched the HomePod with much fanfare, there really weren’t many smart speakers that genuinely sounded good. Come to think of it, three years down the line, and we in India can officially buy the aforementioned Echo Studio is sound quality is of utmost importance. The HomePod runs the Apple A8 chip, also seen in iPhones. This is a cylindrical-shaped speaker that is just 6.8 inches tall and 5.6-inches wide. The design, however, allows it to push out the sound in all directions, making for a genuine 360-degree audio experience. There are seven tweeters packed in, with individual audio drivers. There is a 4-inch high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier. There is a bass-EQ microphone as well, which adjusts the sound of the HomePod according to its placement in the room.
The Siri integration means it is completely smart, and will answer queries, navigate, get you the news and weather and even set calendar entries for you, among other things. It will also be able to control Homekit compatible IoT (internet of things) devices too, no matter where you are in the world. There are six integrated microphones. As you would expect, there is close integration with Apple Music and that means your Apple Music subscription gives you access to more than 60 million music tracks at the command of your voice. The AirPlay capabilities also work with apps such as Spotify, which adds to the versatility. And since Siri is at your beck and call, you can pretty much as it any question that pops in your head—be it a web search, the news updates, the weather forecast, sports scores and control smart home devices.
The Amazon Echo Studio, priced around Rs 22,999, is really the only other smart speaker that comes close in terms of the audio experience. The audio hardware includes three mid-range speakers (each 2-inch in size) that fire to the left, right and upwards. Then there is a single tweeter (1-inch in size) that is facing your direction and then there is a downward facing 5.25-inch woofer. If you look at the Echo Studio as it sits on the mantlepiece or that side table, there is a cut-out has been carved just below where the subwoofer sits, so that bass can have a proper impact. Even though the Echo Studio has a cylindrical design, this is theoretically not a 360-degree speaker. Amazon has gone the whole hog with the Echo Studio globally, with a 24-bit DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and an amplifier, which make it high-res lossless audio compatible. Amazon doesn’t yet offer the high-res music services on Amazon Music in India yet, but this may just be a good time to offer the Amazon Music HD tier to subscribers as an option in India. The Echo Studio is also Dolby Atmos capable, which certainly adds to the sound credentials.