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Amazon Echo vs. Apple HomePod: Which has better speakers?

If you haven’t jumped into the smart speaker pool, it’s probably because it’s a tough decision. Choosing a smart speaker isn’t just about picking a model with the best sound quality or the color that matches your living room. Smart speakers also have major smart home control properties and can play nicely with some music services, streaming TV channels (if you opt for a speaker with a screen), or home security systems.

A smart speaker opens the door for expanding your smart home portal. Since most of us won’t buy a smart home speaker to work with a Ring Video Doorbell and another to manage Apple’s HomeKit via your iPhone, you’ll want to choose carefully. For a lot of buyers, that comes down to a choice between Apple HomePod or Amazon Echo (and if you’re short on space it might just be HomePod Mini versus Echo Dot).

If you’re thinking of grabbing one of these smart speakers, read on for a side-by-side of the Apple HomePod and Amazon Echo (4th Gen).

Design

Apple's HomePod is in need of a design update.

Apple HomePod

Apple’s HomePod seems a bit dated now and the entire package hasn’t been updated since its launch in 2018 making it positively antiquated. After all, the Echo evolved from a cylindrical shape into a stylish sphere, so the stoutness and bulk of the HomePod stands out by comparison.

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) LED light ring
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Amazon Echo 4th Gen

It’s usually easy to say Apple prioritizes design and end the conversation there, but Amazon has been stepping up its game. The new model features a daring new design according to Digital Trends’ smart home editor John Velasco in his 4th Gen Amazon Echo review. He says the new look has him “smitten.” Indeed the new spherical shape in black or white is ultra-modern and can practically disappear into your space. With subtle controls on the top of the speaker, you’ve got easy adjustments at your fingertips, too.

This round goes to the Echo 4th Gen for its modern appeal.

Sound quality

A smart speaker is only as good as its primary purpose and for most of us, that’s the sound.

Before we get to that there’s a serious problem to deal with: If you don’t have an iPhone, you’re not going to hear a peep from the HomePod. To operate HomePod you must have an iOS device capable of running at minimum iOS 11.2.5 — no other phone will do. You must have an iPhone 5s or later, iPad Mini 2 or later, or iPod Touch 6th gen or later. The HomePod is for the Apple faithful and Apple faithful only. Outsiders need not apply.

Apple HomePod

Apple put a lot into making the HomePod sound great and it truly does. Music aficionados will appreciate the smart speaker’s outstanding fidelity, punchy, tuneful, legitimately tight bass, and clear vocals. You can find more detail about the audio quality in our Apple HomePod review.

Amazon Echo 4th Gen

The Echo 4th Gen by comparison isn’t as detailed and doesn’t sound quite as good as the HomePod in a side-by-side comparison, but who’s doing that, aside from tech writers? That said, the Echo 4th Gen doesn’t disappoint in overall audio quality and it’s incredibly capable of appeasing audiophiles. If you’re looking for something with even more high fidelity from Amazon, the Echo Studio stands up well. Read more about Echo Studio vs. HomePod if you’re considering going that route.

If you do have an iPhone you can do either option. The Amazon Echo by comparison will work with almost any phone, tablet, or device, making it a smart speaker for the masses. This is a close one but Apple does come out slightly ahead in the sound department.

Music Services

If you’re one of the rare few who still keeps a vast audio library on your phone, the ability to use streaming music services will be less of a concern for you.

Apple HomePod

Apple Music is the only service that works with voice commands on the HomePod. You can’t ask Siri to play your Spotify or Pandora playlists on the HomePod. You can, however, use AirPlay to stream Spotify and some other music or video apps via Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the speaker lacks a Bluetooth connection and an auxiliary input jack, so you can’t connect non-Apple devices to the speaker.

Amazon Echo 4th Gen

With the Amazon Echo, you’re in control and you can connect it to a variety of music streaming services (including Apple Music, by the way) while enjoying handsfree control.

This category is a no-brainer: It goes to Amazon Echo 4th Gen for pure ease-of-use.

Controls

Apple HomePod

Apple’s subtle minimalism carries through to the controls on the HomePod; they’re invisible tap and touch modules that you’ll never see unless you need them. If you favor tech gadgets that don’t look obvious, you’re all about the HomePod.

Amazon Echo 4th Gen

The Amazon Echo by comparison has actual buttons. If you want to be able to see what you’re doing with the controls, it’s the Echo for you.

How you feel about these controls may very well have to do with your home’s design esthetic. Since both devices essentially offer the same controls, we’re calling this one a tie.

Amazon Echo 4th Gen lights up a room.

Price and availability

Apple HomePod

This is where the rubber hits the road for a lot of folks. If you’re a die-hard Apple convert, you might not bat an eye at spending $349 (regular price) on this gadget. But that’s if you can find one. Apple is retiring this product.

Amazon Echo 4th Gen

Echo 4th Gen by comparison has a list price of $100 and is ready, willing, and able to arrive at your home. , and Amazon is more than happy to take your money at any moment, in almost any country.

The clear winner in this category is the Amazon Echo 4th Gen because it’s more affordable and easy to find.

The Verdict

Pretty much any way you slice it, Amazon Echo 4th Gen is the clear winner here. While either speaker will be a solid addition to your home or office the choice you need to make will depend on which voice assistant, Siri or Alexa, you prefer and which music streaming service you rely on most. Even so, from price to availability, sound quality to versatility, there are really no downsides to adding the Amazon Echo 4th Gen to your smart home.

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