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Apple HomePod review: An amalgam of mesmeric bass and progressive design

Apple HomePod in a home environment

Apple HomePod in a home environment   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

The HomePod by Apple, which just made its way into the Indian market, is a stylish and functional addition to your abode. Here’s why:

During the lockdown, we have come to expect greatness from our in-home audio tech; with theatres and clubs shut , many at home want to emulate that cinematic thundering sound or that soul-stirring musicscape. Add a dash of IoT to the mix and there are a slew of devices which remind us that ‘smart’ is the new way to live.

Enter HomePod, Apple’s IoT speaker which has arrived in India — bizarrely, two years after its global launch.

Specifications
  • Dimensions and weight: height: 6.8” (172 mm), width: 5.6” (142 mm); 2.5kg
  • Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO (2.4GHz, 5GHz); Multi-room speaker support with AirPlay; Direct guest access; Bluetooth 5.0
  • Frequency response: 40Hz to 20,000Hz
  • Audio formats: HE-AAC (V1), AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, and FLAC
  • System requirements: iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad (5th generation), iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) running iOS 13.3.1 or later; 802.11 Wi-Fi Internet access; Apple Music subscription for full music functionality
  • Electrical and environmental requirements: Built-in power supply; Line voltage: 100V to 240V; AC Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz; Operating temperature: 0° to 35° C; Storage temperature: –20° to 45° C; Relative humidity: 5% to 90% noncondensing; Operating altitude: tested up to 3000 m

Size-wise, the HomePod is compact speaker at 2.5 kilograms, its body wrapped in a neat mesh. Having reviewed the Space Grey variant, I found it melded better with the interiors of my home than the White would. I also felt the latter would be difficult to keep clean. On the top is an LED-backlit touchpad with minimal touch controls. The HomePod has a wired power supply with a lengthy and sturdy power cord and compact plug. This speaker, essentially, is a very pretty addition to your bookshelf, desk, kitchen counter or side table.

Siri, once the HomePod is set up, is intuitively synced with the existing Siri algorithm in your other Apple devices. So whatever Siri ‘remembers’ in your iPhone, MacBook or iPad, your HomePod will too. The process of syncing is simple, too. Speaking with the HomePod while music is blaring through is easy, thanks to the six-microphone array. With the simple ‘Hey Siri’, the trademark galactic swirl appears on the glass top, signalling that the HomePod can hear you and is ready to listen. The A8 chip, an Apple design, is also a remarkable USP of the HomePod, as the device learns its way through the music, making sure you get the best of it from start to finish.

Hear, hear!

While it is easy to get swept up by the internal structure — fascinating it may be — the sound delivery itself could be the sole selling point. While the treble and vocals are the focus, it is the uncompromised bass, courtesy the high-excursion woofer, that delivers that extra punch to the overall sound profile. The diaphragm within the device moves 20 millimetres from peak to peak, meaning a lot of air moves through the device to deliver that remarkable bass. The HomePod’s positioning of its seven-tweeter (treble speaker) array is unique; usually tweeters in speakers are up high, but Apple has strived to eliminate the problem of table reflection, which usually detracts from the quality. The horns of the tweeters are also folded inwards which, cleverly, redirects the flow of sound through the centre of the device, while making sure there is output from all directions. Ultimately, for me, this meant I could place the HomePod anywhere in the room, on any surface type, and get consistently attractive sound.

The interiors of the Apple HomePod

The interiors of the Apple HomePod   | Photo Credit: Apple Inc

So why did it take two years for the HomePod to make a new home in the Indian market? According to Apple, the HomePod needed to be perfected for the Indian demographic, and to suit as many languages as possible — though I am yet to hash out a full conversation in Telugu or Hindi with anyone, never mind HomePod. It has also been outfitted with updated spatial awareness for the structure of an Indian home. And given most Indian homes have quite a few people who interact with technology, the Voice Personalisation features on HomePod are effective but take a while to set up, if your roommates or relatives have the patience.

However, the power of Siri only goes so far; while India has already been impressed by the power of Google Assistant and Alexa, we are yet to be able to ask Siri to command the functions of, say, a smart TV. HomePod does add a good deal of dimension to the usually forlorn Home app on iPad and iPhone, but only to an extent.

It is surprising that the HomePod is under ₹20,000 when many such intuitive speakers cost a little more, but take into account the relatively limited nature of Siri and it may make sense. For those who are ready to jump on the HomePod and have some extra cash, I would recommend buying a second for stereo pairing, for an even more immersive experience.

The HomePod releasing a little late in India has not stopped Apple enthusiasts from purchasing the device in other markets when many homes already have premium audio gadgetry such as the Bose Home series of speakers, the Google Nest Hub and Mini. The HomePod offers the power of IoT, the strengthening of an Apple-ready home and ecosystem, memorable sound and secure encryption when interacting with Siri.

The HomePod is available for ₹19,990 at apple.com/in and across authorised third-party resellers

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 12:14:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/apple-homepod-review-india-mesmeric-bass-progressive-design/article31720425.ece

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