Apple's entry into the "smart" speaker market earlier this month was notable due to its lateness almost more than anything else: Amazon's Echo speakers have been around for a few years, Sonos (finally) brought a voice assistant to its Wi-Fi speaker to fall, and even Google managed to sneak in its smart speaker before the end of the year, despite not being a hardware company first.
But the launch of HomePod was also notable due to the approach that Apple seems to have taken with it: it's a high-end audio party on the front, and the entire virtual assistant business has been pushed to the back. The HomePod sounds amazing, it really is, while the Siri speaker can not tell you what's next on your calendar or handle more than one timer at a time.
Naturally, this generates both existential questions about intelligent speakers (what is it for?) As practical ones. Many people just want to know the basics: will it work with my favorite music streaming service? Do you do multi-room audio? How am I supposed to use the application? Really, how does it compare to using a great sound speaker with an assistant that I already use at home … like a Sonos One with Alexa?
Those are all the questions that "we" set out to answer in this week's Versus episode. And we hope it will help shed some light on the subject of smart speakers as you try to decide which one to buy, or if you buy one.