This week on AI: Apple readies new iPads & AirPods, AirPlay 2 goes MIA, HomePod vs. Sonos & more

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Top stories included an imminent iPad refresh, Apple plans to buy a battery ingredient directly from miners, and word that updated AirPods could be ready later this year.
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Google Home Max May Damage Your Furniture As Well Just Like HomePod And Sonos One

According to new tests, Google Home Max is prone to damaging your newly polished furniture just like HomePod and Sonos One. Here’s what you need to know.

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Smart Speaker Showdown: HomePod vs. Google Home vs. Sonos One

Apple’s new HomePod is late to the smart speaker market, which is already crowded with speakers from companies like Amazon, Google, and Sonos. The latter two companies, Google and Sonos, have released speakers with high-quality sound and robust voice assistants, giving the HomePod some serious competition.

We decided to pit Apple’s $349 HomePod against both the $399 Google Home Max, which comes with Google Assistant, and the $199 Alexa-powered Sonos One to see how the HomePod measures up.

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To compare the three speakers, we focused on design, sound quality, and the overall performance of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

When it comes to design — and this is certainly subjective — we preferred the look of the HomePod with its fabric-wrapped body and small but solid form factor. The Sonos One looks a little more dated with its squarer body and standard speaker mesh, while the Google Home Max has a much larger footprint that’s going to take up more space.

Apple’s HomePod

All three offer touch-based controls at the top of the device, but the Google Home Max has one design edge – a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting external music sources. The Sonos One has a single Ethernet port, while the HomePod has no ports.

Though we liked the HomePod’s design, Siri, as you might expect, did not perform as well as Alexa on Sonos One or Google Assistant on Google Home Max.

Google Home Max

On questions like “Is Pluto a planet?” or “What’s the fastest car?” both Alexa and Google Assistant were able to provide satisfactory answers, while Siri said those weren’t questions that could be answered on HomePod.

Siri was not able to sing happy birthday, create a calendar event, or even provide the release date of the HomePod itself, directing users to Apple.com for more information, while the other smart assistants were able to do these things.

Apple execs have said in the past that Siri was not engineered to be Trivial Pursuit, but it would be nice if Siri had a more competitive feature set.

Though only briefly touched on in the video, Siri does, in fact, do well with HomeKit commands and controlling music playback on the HomePod through an accompanying Apple Music subscription.

Sonos One

Sound quality is a controversial topic because there’s a heavy amount of personal preference involved when judging these three speakers. We thought the HomePod sounded the best, with the Google Home Max at a close second, followed by the Sonos One.

The Google Home Max gets the loudest, but sound becomes somewhat distorted at the highest volumes, while the Sonos One offers robust sound that’s not quite as good at a lower price point. HomePod does have one major benefit: a fantastic microphone that picks up Siri commands even when you’re across the room.

All three of these speakers offer great sound, and if you’re attempting to pick one based on reviews, make sure to read several. We thought the HomePod sounded best, but other sources, like Consumer Reports and Yahoo‘s David Pogue found that the Google Home Max and the Sonos One sounded better than the HomePod.


So which speaker is better? The answer to that question depends on the other products you own. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber with a HomeKit setup, the HomePod is going to work great. It only works natively with Apple Music, iTunes Match, and iTunes purchases, so if you have a Spotify subscription, for example, support isn’t as robust.

For that reason, if you’re not locked into Apple’s ecosystem already, or if you have Apple devices but subscribe to Spotify, HomePod probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

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Like HomePod, Sonos One Leaves White Rings on Some Furniture

The HomePod’s silicone base can leave white rings on some wood surfaces that have an oil or wax finish, a problem that Apple yesterday said was “not unusual.” As it turns out, Apple wasn’t incorrect — the Sonos One, a competing smart speaker, also leaves white rings on furniture.

Tom’s Guide reviewer Mike Prospero read about the HomePod causing rings on furniture yesterday and went to check his wood cabinet, where he did indeed discover a ring caused by the HomePod. But next to it, he found smaller square shaped marks, which had been caused by the Sonos One located near the HomePod.

Image via Tom’s Guide

When I got home, I saw a large white ring, a telltale indication that the HomePod’s silicone base had messed up the finish. But, as I was inspecting the damage, I noticed a series of smaller white marks near where the HomePod was sitting.

A closer inspection revealed that the Sonos One speaker, which also has small silicone feet, had made these marks on my cabinet. Looking around the top of the cabinet, I noticed a bunch of little white marks, all left from the Sonos Ones as I moved them around. So, they will damage your wood furniture, too. We’re awaiting comment from Sonos.

Like the HomePod, the Sonos One has a silicone base with four small feet. It doesn’t make a ring as prominent as the ring caused by the HomePod, but it does appear to cause the same marks.

White rings became a topic of discussion yesterday morning after independent reviews from Pocket-lint and Wirecutter pointed out the marks the HomePod left on oiled or waxed furniture. After the issue received significant media attention, Apple published a “Cleaning and taking care of HomePod” support document that warned about the potential for marks on some wooden surfaces.

Apple said it is not unusual silicone bases to leave mild marks, and that they should go away with time or with some light polishing. Tom’s Guide reviewer Mike Prospero says that the marks do indeed appear to fade with time. From Apple’s support document:

HomePod is designed for indoor use only. When using HomePod, make sure to place it on a solid surface. Place the power cord so that it won’t be walked on or pinched.

It is not unusual for any speaker with a vibration-dampening silicone base to leave mild marks when placed on some wooden surfaces. The marks can be caused by oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface, and will often go away after several days when the speaker is removed from the wooden surface. If not, wiping the surface gently with a soft damp or dry cloth may remove the marks. If marks persist, clean the surface with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend placing your HomePod on a different surface.

It is not clear why Apple did not inform customers about the possibility of white marks on wood, as this is presumably an issue the company had to know about following the HomePod’s extended beta test with Apple employees and the years of development that went into the product.

A simple HomePod care support document published ahead of the HomePod’s launch, rather than after customers were left to discover the issue on their own would have likely mitigated much of the negative press and frustration from customers.

For those who are concerned about the HomePod damaging their expensive wood furniture, Apple recommends putting the HomePod on a different surface to avoid problems all together.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

Discuss this article in our forums


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