A few weeks ago Apple announced that its highly anticipated Apple Homepod has been delayed and is now due for release in early 2018. With brands like Sony, Google and SONOS all having smart speakers already available in this emerging niche of home-technology, they might be worth considering as Homepod alternatives.
Like most smart speakers, the Homepod doesn’t really have a display but it’s by no means a bad thing if the voice controls are accurate. Fortunately, Siri is your major port of call here. As one of the more progressive personal voice assistants available, Siri’s integration with the Homepod makes this smart speaker a valuable addition to the household for a few reasons. It’s handy to be able to quickly find out the answers to Questions like “what’s today’s temperature?” or “how long does an egg take to boil”, but the speaker really becomes useful when it’s used to control smart home products in conjunction with Apple HomeKit.
As opposed to some competitors’ smart speakers, Apple claims that the Homepod has a strong focus on sound quality. Aside from the seven tweeters hidden behind the casing, the device will analyse the room’s acoustic each time it’s turned on, ensuring the best sound it can possibly output. This comes at a price, though, expect to pay around $465AUD for Apple’s latest family member once it’s released. It all runs off an A8 chip, which makes it as powerful as an iPhone! Obviously, if you’re well entrenched in the Apple eco-system, you may want to wait for the Homepod, rather than settle for an alternative.
The name may not be as charming as its competitors, but don’t let that put you off. The LF-S50G positions itself well in terms of sound and connectivity. Sony has been doing audio for a while now, so the quality here is no surprise. While the LF-S50G doesn’t have seven tweeters like the Homepod, its two-way facing speaker system and generously sized woofer make up for it. In fact, this is some of the richest bass we’ve heard from a smart speaker – without being overwhelming, of course.
The brains of the LF-S50G is none other than Google Assistant, so you’re not limited to connecting with only Sony products. The Bluetooth NFC One-Touch technology also makes the speaker ridiculously easy to pair with all sorts of devices.
All of this is impressive, however, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. In the LF-S50G’s case, it comes in the design; there’s a simple LED dot matrix display which shines through the outer grille. It’s by no means overbearing, but it’ll display the time and show the volume level when you adjust it. The outer grille is also completely removable and washable, so any mess from the kitchen is easily cleaned off.
At a comparatively modest $249AUD, the Sony LF-S50G is well worth a look. Read our recent review of the Sony LF-S50G here.
While Apple, Sony and Google all have a few years on SONOS, their team have been producing some very impressive audio products since their beginnings in 2002. The SONOS ONE is their first foray into ‘smart’ territory, and it’s one of the best sounding of its kind.
The two Class–D digital amplifiers ensure a crisp and clear audio quality no matter the genre, while the SONOS app allows you to adjust EQ’s to your liking. This smart speaker, however, is currently sans personal voice assistant in Australia. Running off Amazon’s Alexa, local owners and customers should see this become available in the next few months. The SONOS ONE is hopefully set to support Google Assistant at some point before the end of 2018, making it the first smart speaker to support multiple personal voice assistants.
The SONOS ONE is perfectly capable of filling a room on its own, but it’s easily linked with a second Sonos speaker if you’re entertaining more than a few guests. It’ll set you back $299AUD. We recently reviewed the SONOS ONE, take a closer look here.
Google Home & Google Home Mini
Kings of the search, Google, have of course tapped into the smart speaker market with their own hardware. Coming in at a relatively affordable $199AUD for the Google Home, and $79AUD for the Google Home Mini, both speakers are a great option for anyone that’s after a smart speaker with full Google Assistant functionality.
Interacting with the personal voice assistant is a smooth and easy on the Google Home and Google Home Mini. The quality of the mics can pick up an “okay Google” from another room and works relatively well even with substantial background noise.
The Google Home is lightweight, and the Google Home Mini even more so. While they’re not portable, it certainly makes things easier if you’re the type to take your speaker from one room to another. Their contemporary designs, complete with a soft, wrap-around fabric seem to complement everything from the kitchen to the bedroom.
With Amazon having just launched in Australia, the Amazon Echo is well and truly deserving of a spot on this list. Like any Amazon smart product, you may be aware that they’ll include Amazon’s personal voice assistant, Alexa. It may not be available in Australia immediately, but if you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this feature, you’ll know it works pretty damn well. Adding to the voice control, this stout and robust smart speaker has some of the most accurate microphones available on a product of its kind.
It’s got a neat appearance, and you can interchange the outer shell just like Sony’s LF-S50G. As another smart speaker that focuses on how it can assist you more than anything, don’t expect it to fill a house party – although Alexa will be able to guide you through the rules of beer pong.
The Wrap-Up – Apple Homepod Alternatives
With the options currently available, you’re probably going to get 90% of what you want in a smart speaker, no matter which you go for. If you’re after superior sound quality, the SONOS ONE and Sony’s LF-S50G are definitely worth your time and money. If interactivity and features are what you’re looking for, Apple’s impending Homepod and the Google Home are most definitely ahead of the pack.