Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Who Wins in the Battle of the Bots?

Six months after Apple first unveiled the HomePod, the tech giant’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home is almost here. Apple opened pre-orders for the smart speaker on Friday, January 26, just in time for its official launch on February 9.

The fact that Apple is late to the game is no big surprise. Apple is never usually the first to bring new gadgets to market—with neither the iPhone, the iPod or the Apple Watch the first in their product categories—but what the tech giant lacks in speed, it tries to make up for by outperforming the competition. So how does the HomePod stack up in the battle of the bots?

Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Speaker Sound

Apple’s music credentials are arguably much greater than Amazon or Google, having pioneered portable music with the iPod and having the likes of iTunes and Apple Music among its most coveted assets.

It’s therefore no surprise that the Cupertino company boasts about the HomePod being the ultimate device for audiophiles.

“HomePod combines Apple-engineered audio technology and advanced software to deliver the highest-fidelity sound throughout the room, anywhere it’s placed,” Apple states on its website. “This elegantly designed, compact speaker totally rocks the house.”

While the cheaper hardware of the standard Google Home or Amazon Echo may find it hard to compete with the HomePod, the deluxe Google Home Max and the Alexa-powered Sonos One both offer alternatives to people in the market for a smart speaker that prioritizes sound.

Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Siri vs. Alexa vs. Google Assistant

A recent review of the three assistants by Tom’s Guide found that the Google Assistant scored best in a general knowledge quiz, with Siri performing the worst. With the might of Google’s search engine behind it, it is unsurprising to see Google Home come out tops in this category.

apple homepod review comparison echo google The HomePod is Apple's answer to Google Home and the Amazon Echo. Apple, Amazon, Google/ Newsweek Composite

Likewise, it is no shock that the world’s largest online retailer is able to outperform its rivals with its smart speaker when it comes to online shopping. With Apple putting the emphasis on the word “speaker” rather than “smart,” this is inevitably a category that the HomePod falls down on.

Read more: Amazon’s Alexa is now a feminist but still doesn’t seem to understand consent

Where all three slip up is in the voicing of their assistants, having faced criticism for conforming to stereotypes of female subservience.

“Tech should help to positively change, not perpetuate, societal ills,” stated a recent petition calling for Amazon and Apple to address accusations of sexism leveled at Alexa and Siri.

Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Privacy

Anyone who cares a great deal about privacy is unlikely to introduce an internet-connected listening device into their homes, however the privacy conscious technophiles may still be interested to know which offers the best privacy features.

Evidence continues to mount that Google’s assistant listens in on private conversations in order to serve ads to its users, while an Amazon Echo has been used in a murder investigation due to the assumption that it recorded background noise at the scene of a crime.

Apple homepod comparison amazon echo Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, announces the new Apple HomePod during the annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose, California, on June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

This is therefore one area where Apple trumps the competition thanks to the firm’s commitment to user privacy. Apple has been a frequent proponent for privacy, having famously denied the FBI the backdoor it wanted for the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters in 2016.

Apple says: “With HomePod, only after ‘Hey Siri’ is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.”

This means that not only will Apple only record people after they have requested the virtual assistant, unlike Google and Amazon, it will also not gather information on users for the purpose of advertising and marketing.

Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Price

As you might expect from Apple, the cost of the HomePod is significantly higher than its rivals. The high-end price is meant to convey a high-end product, though as the iPhone often proves in comparison reviews against Android devices, this does not necessarily mean it is better than the competition.

At $349, the HomePod is almost twice as expensive as the $180 Amazon Echo and more than $200 more expensive than the $129 Google Home.

amazon echo murder alexa arkansas police The Amazon Echo was first to the market, but faces competition from the world's largest tech firms. Amazon

There are also cheaper options from both Amazon and Google, with the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot both costing $50.

Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: The Verdict

Like the smartphone space a decade ago, the virtual assistant market is new, differentiated and ripe for innovation. This means that unlike choosing between homogeneous smartphones in 2018, customers may need to think about what device is truly best suited to them.

The HomePod wins out on sound quality and privacy and falls only slightly short when it comes to the capabilities of its Siri assistant. But like the iPhone X, people in the market for a smart speaker for their home will have to ask themselves whether it really is worth the significantly increased price tag.

Ultimately, it may depend on whether customer loyalties lie with Apple, or whether people prefer the flexibility that comes with not being locked in to an ecosystem like the Echo or Google Home.

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