Apple is ending the HomePod—here's what to buy instead
There are several other smart speakers worthy of your attention.
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The Apple HomePod is going the way of the dodo, as the tech giant recently announced that it plans to discontinue the four-year-old product to instead focus on the smaller, more wallet-friendly HomePod Mini.
The original HomePod sounded great, but was hamstrung by its hefty price tag and comparatively limited smart assistant, Siri, which doesn’t offer the tremendous compatibility that standouts like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa boast. Now that it has one foot out the door, you may be looking for a solid replacement. Never fear, as we’ve pulled out some great picks that can (for the most part) replace the original HomePod without skipping a beat. Here are our picks for the best alternatives to Apple’s stellar-sounding smart speaker.
Apple HomePod Mini
The HomePod Mini, Apple’s new prized smart speaker, is the most obvious replacement for the original HomePod for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it runs on the same smart system via Siri and, in that regard, seamlessly steps into its larger sibling’s place.
The Mini doesn’t exactly have the audio chops that the HomePod does, with the original offering more depth and deeper bass. However, the smaller version sounds remarkably clear and punches well above its weight class. Plus, thanks to the Mini’s ability to create a stereo pair with a fellow Apple smart speaker, it would be more cost-effective (and potentially better sounding) to add a pair of Minis to your living room rather than a single HomePod.
The HomePod Mini is also incredibly easy to set up, and integrates fairly well with other parts of the Apple ecosystem. It is a tough product to build a smart home around, however. Both the Mini and the original HomePod’s smart home control comes strictly from HomeKit, meaning Siri will only be able to control smart home devices that are HomeKit compatible. Great, affordable sound is important for smart speakers to have, and the HomePod Mini checks those boxes. But smart speakers also need to be, well, smart.
With the standards set by Google and Amazon, the HomePod Mini is far from the top of its class in this regard. This is why you may want to look outside the Apple family.
Bose Home Speaker 300
The Bose Home Speaker 300 is our favorite smart speaker available today, with good reason. Like the Sonos One, it offers the ability to summon either Alexa or Google Assistant (but only one at a time) with your voice and it has a stellar app that allows you to adjust sound settings or tap into a different music source. Unlike the Sonos One, it also adds Bluetooth capability, giving the Home Speaker 300 an edge in the connections department.
Bose’s impressive smart speaker doesn’t possess the audio quality found in competitors like the Sonos One or the Amazon Echo Studio. But it still sounds quite good, and bolsters that audio quality with an intriguing repertoire of features. At $100 less than the HomePod, the Bose Home Speaker 300 is a smarter solution that will save you quite a few bucks along the way.
Sonos has long been the gold standard when it comes to blending sound quality and functionality, and the Sonos One does not disappoint. While it is one of the smallest speakers that Sonos offers—though it’s looking larger since the Sonos Roam hit the market—the Sonos One sounds excellent. That’s true whether it’s on its own, paired with another Sonos One for stereo listening, or acting as a rear speaker in a Sonos home theater setup with a Beam or Arc soundbar.
Sonos’ voice assistant feature also lets you pick between Alexa or Google Assistant, meaning the One is a friendly option for either smart home ecosystem. However, like the Bose 300, the One does not work with Siri or Apple HomeKit and also can’t do everything that an Echo or Nest device can. For instance, you can’t make calls with the One, a sometimes handy feature that’s present in Amazon’s line of Echo speakers. Still, the versatility of the One’s choose-your-own-assistant design makes it a smarter option than the HomePod while maintaining truly impressive audio quality.
If you need something that's mobile and outdoor safe, the Sonos Move would be another great Sonos-branded alternative to the HomePod. At $400, however, it is an expensive addition to your patio or kitchen. For that same price, you could snag a pair of Ones and stereo pair them, or set them up in different parts of your home for multiroom playback.
Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon’s deep roster of smart speakers may just be the best option when it comes to being truly “smart" and that makes the Echo Studio effectively the largest of the smartest, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your space and needs. The Studio has everyone’s favorite voice assistant (hint: it rhymes with Balexa), as well as a built-in smart home hub to allow the speaker to control Zigbee-compatible devices. Simply put, these speakers are tailor-made to be the heart and soul of an Alexa-powered smart home environment (it does not work with Google Assitant or HomeKit).
Aside from its smart features, the Echo Studio is Amazon’s best-sounding smart speaker to date. It is big enough to belt out some considerable bass, while also delivering crisp audio that should be music to most ears. The Echo Studio also features an upfiring driver and supports Dolby Atmos Music, serving as one of the first products on the market to cater to the burgeoning world of 3D music streaming. You’ll need to use a service like Amazon Music Unlimited or Tidal to tap into this new format of music, and the tracks that are available are few and far between. But it is an intriguing concept that could grow in the future, and Amazon got in on the ground floor with the Echo Studio.
Google Nest Audio
We won’t bury the lede. Google’s Nest Audio is the company’s equivalent to Apple’s HomePod Mini, right down to the modest price tag ($99), small stature, and singular voice assistant compatibility.
We could keep listing the similarities between these budding smart speakers, from the stereo pairing feature to the surprisingly sweet sound from such a compact package. The bottom line is, Google’s Nest Audio is a HomePod Mini for Google Assistant fans, only it’s a lot smarter. Without question, Google has done a better job of carving out some territory in the world of smart home products than Apple.
The Nest Audio is compatible with countless smart home devices and brands, while Apple is tethered to the constraints of only working with HomeKit-compatible products. Siri may be the more familiar voice assistant for many, and the HomePod and HomePod Mini are solid options for iOS users. But for pure smart home functionality, Google’s Nest Audio gets the nod.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.