Smart speakers have gone from darkness to near ubiquity in a few years. If you have not yet taken the step or are thinking of an update, we have a compilation of the best smart speakers available in the market. But then we will review in depth how Apple HomePod vs. Sonos One, two very different products but offering excellent sound quality. What do you think could occupy a central space in your home?
If your budget is limited, but you want to have excellent sound quality and the comfort of a voice assistant, the choice is easy. Sonos One costs $ 199 dollars, while Apple HomePod costs $ 299 dollars. Although we will see later what are the characteristics that explain this price difference of one hundred dollars (and if they are worth it), it cannot be denied that Sonos One is the least expensive option.
Winner: Sonos One
Depending on the technology you prefer, it is also a simple choice. Sonos One has had Alexa support from the beginning, but at the beginning of 2019 it fulfilled its promise to also add the Google Assistant. This means that you can choose the one you prefer. You cannot use them simultaneously, but with the Sonos mobile application you can quickly change your preferred assistant. HomePod, however, only supports Apple's Siri assistant. And although we are sure that there is a lot of material to discuss what is the best assistant, it is not the issue we will address today. As always two options will be better than one, we will give this point to Sonos One.
Winner: Sonos One
Probably listening to music is the main activity you do with your smart speaker. Filling a room with your favorite songs by just saying a few words is a fascinating experience. However, the ability of your smart speaker to satisfy those tastes will be marked by the music you can access.
As a wireless music system, Sonos' musical sources are practically unlimited. Through its application, you can add accounts for a number of services: Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube Music, Pandora, Deezer, SiriusXM … and more. In addition, you can access your personal collection, on your computer or a hard drive connected to the computer or the network. You can also use your iTunes library (soon Apple Music), as well as the songs you have on your cell phone. You can even channel music from a turntable, if you buy a Sonos or Sonos Connect amplifier.
It's like music nirvana, and it is, but things change a bit once you start using a voice assistant to try to access this incredible variety of music. If you set up a Sonos One with Alexa, you can access:
- Amazon Music
- TuneIn Radio
- Apple Music
You can also add Tidal through an Alexa function, but it has very limited functionality.
If you configure it with Google Assistant, you will get access to:
- Google Play Music
- Youtube music
Clearly, the voice assistant you choose to affect the music you can hear. Spotify users won't even notice it, but if you're a Google, YouTube or Apple Music user, the matter is different.
Apple's HomePod, on the other hand, simplifies things: you can access Apple Music and your song library, and that's it. If you don't want to subscribe to Apple Music, you can still access your music files.
Since with Alexa on Sonos One you can access Apple Music, in addition to many other options, Sonos One prevails again.
Winner: Sonos One
What is the use of having access to a large amount of music if your smart speaker does not offer a rich and complete sound? Not much, frankly. The good news is that both Sonos One and Apple HomePod are really great. They offer the answer you would expect from companies known for building speakers, with clarity and detail, and excellent bass. However, with its 360-degree design, slightly more powerful controllers and automatic calibration, HomePod does a better job of creating surround sound. If you want to know why HomePod cost $ 100 more, this is the reason. While a single HomePod unit does a better job than a single Sonos One speaker, we don't test them in the stereo configuration (where you need two units). Because Sonos One has a more directional sound than HomePod, purists may prefer this performance. But when you use it as a solo smart speaker, HomePod prevails.
Winner: Apple HomePod
Easy to use
An intelligent horn should be easy to use. But there are two types of usability to consider: through voice commands and when you inevitably need a mobile application or other software. The approach of each company is very different.
Sonos One is essentially the company's successful Play: 1 speaker, but with the microphones, microchips and software needed to be a smart speaker. As such, you can control your Sonos One with the Sonos mobile application, one of the best we have used: it has a universal search and allows you a simple and easy control of multiple speakers.
Because Sonos One depends on third parties for its "intelligence", being at the mercy of these companies. Alexa and Google Assistant have their strengths. The Google Assistant stands out for providing answers to general inquiries and is good at following conversations. Alexa's strengths lie primarily in controlling devices, especially if you have the line of Amazon Fire TVs or multimedia transmitters. But none is developed to provide any special skills to Sonos One.
Apple HomePod is from its genesis an intelligent horn with Siri technology, deeply integrated into Apple's overall ecosystem. As always with Apple, this translates into good and bad results. On the one hand, Apple has full control over the development of HomePod: it has the hardware, the voice assistant and the only service of streaming of music with which it is currently compatible. This means that HomePod, in theory, should provide you with an excellent voice assistant user experience. For the most part, it does: you can use HomePod as a horn for your iPhone, make Siri answer questions, and its integration with Apple's HomeKit makes controlling smart devices very easy. On the other hand, all your interactions with HomePod are mainly based on voice commands, to the point that certain activities, such as making music sound in another room, cannot be achieved otherwise.
We like that Sonos is not only a good voice-controlled horn, but also offers a fantastic application if you want to do things the old way. Having more than one option, again, is the key here.
Smart home control
Beyond music, smart speakers are a gateway to a universe of home devices that you can manage by voice, from refrigerators to light bulbs and thermostats. But as usual, what you can control is very determined by compatibility. As we mentioned, Sonos One can be configured with Alexa or Google Assistant. For now, there are more Alexa-compatible devices, although that may change in the future.
Meanwhile, Apple HomePod only works with products compatible with Apple HomeKit. This is not a decisive factor, since there are more and more entering the market. However, you will hardly find a product that is only compatible with HomeKit, while it is more common to find products that only work with Alexa and Google Assistant. HomeKit is a very well designed platform, but once again, Apple has created it so that it only works from iOS or Mac devices. Because Siri does not work on Android, this could create friction if your home is not 100% Apple.
Sonos One gives you more options on smart home devices and how to control them, so we give you the victory again. But consult us again, because this is a category in which Apple is making great progress.
Winner: Sonos One
Conclusion Apple HomePod vs. Sonos one
At this point, the result should be clear: your best bet is Sonos One. It is less expensive than Apple HomePod, it integrates without difficulty to a wireless audio system and is compatible with virtually all music services. The best thing is that you can choose the voice assistant of your liking. HomePod will cost you more dollars, offers a fuller and richer sound thanks to its 360-degree design, but requires total loyalty to Apple's products and services ecosystem to make the most of it. It is the best Siri device on the market, but if you are not impressed by your capabilities as a voice assistant compared to Alexa or Google Assistant, HomePod is unlikely to appeal to you.