Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod: Which One Do You Need?

Echo vs. Homepod

There are a lot of choices these days for smart speakers. The Amazon Echo is probably the most well known, while 2018-released Apple HomePod is a smaller player.

Both devices can do the same sorts of things–play music, control smart-home devices, respond to voice commands, send messages–but they don't do them the same way or equally well. When comparing Amazon Echo vs. Apple HomePod, figuring out which device is best for you depends on a number of things, including the features that are most important to you and the other devices and services you want to use. 

Intelligent Assistant: Echo

Artificial Intelligence
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The thing that makes a "smart" speaker smart is the voice-activated assistant built into it. For HomePod, that's Siri. For Echo, it's Alexa. To get the most out of these tools, you'll want one that can do the most. That's Alexa. While Siri is good (and deeply integrated into the Apple ecosystem, as discussed later), Alexa is better. Alexa can do more things, thanks to "skills" created by third-party developers. HomePod supports only a few third-party skills. Beyond that, tests have found that Alexa is more accurate in answering questions and responding to commands than Siri.

Streaming Music: Tie

image credit: Apple Inc.

Both the Echo and HomePod support a ton of streaming services, so which speaker you prefer will probably depend on your preferred music provider. Echo offers native support for all the big names–Spotify, Pandora, etc.—except for Apple Music. You can, however, play Apple Music to the Echo over Bluetooth. HomePod, on the other hand, only has native support for Apple Music, but lets you play all the other services using AirPlay. If you're a heavy Apple Music user, HomePod will deliver a better experience–since it supports Siri voice commands and delivers better sound (more on that next)–but Spotify fans may prefer the Echo.

Sound Quality: HomePod

Apple HomePod
image credit: Apple Inc.

Without question, the HomePod is the best-sounding smart speaker on the market. That's no surprise: Apple is obsessed with delivering great audio quality and designed the HomePod to primarily serve as a music accessory (in fact, it seems to have emphasized audio over the "smart" features). If audio quality matters most to you, get the HomePod. But the Echo's speaker is decent, and the device's other capabilities may help offset the somewhat lesser audio quality.

Smart Home: Tie

smart home
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One of the big promises of smart speakers is that they can sit at the center of your smart home and let you control your lights, thermostat, and other Internet-connected devices by voice. On this front, the speaker you want will depend mostly on what other smart-home devices you have. The HomePod supports Apple's HomeKit standard (which is also used on iOS devices like the iPhone). The Echo doesn't support HomeKit, but it supports other standards and a huge number of smart-home devices have Echo-compatible skills.

Messaging and Calls: Echo (but only slightly)

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image credit: Amazon

Both the Echo and the HomePod can help you communicate via phone or text message. Exactly how they do this is slightly different, though. The HomePod doesn't make calls itself; rather you can transfer a call from your iPhone to the HomePod and use it as a speakerphone. On the other hand, the Echo can actually make the call right from the device—and some models of the Echo even support video calling. For text messages, both devices offer largely the same features, except that the Echo doesn't send messages via Apple's secure iMessage platform, which the HomePod does.

Form Factor and Usage in the House: Echo

amazon echo spot
image credit: Amazon

The HomePod is a new device and so it comes in just one size and shape. The Echo is much more varied and offers different models for all sorts of uses. There's the cylindrical Echo or Echo Plus, the hockey-puck-sized Echo Dot, the alarm-clock-style Echo Spot, the video-calling-centric Echo Show, and even a fashion-oriented tool called the Echo Look. All in all, the Echo is more versatile in its size, shape, and focus.

Multiple Users: Echo

family using devices
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If you've got more than one person in your house who wants to use the smart speaker, the Echo is your best bet right now. That's because the Echo can distinguish between voices, learn who they belong to, and respond differently based on that. HomePod can't do that right now. This isn't just a limitation, it could actually be a bit of a privacy risk. Because HomePod can't determine that your voice is yours, anyone could walk into your house, ask Siri to read your text messages, and hear them (as long as your iPhone is in the house, that is). Expect HomePod to gain multi-user support and better privacy measures eventually, but for now, the Echo is farther along in those areas.

Apple Ecosystem Integration: HomePod

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image credit: Apple Inc.

If you're already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem (i.e. Macs, iPhones, iPads, etc)–HomePod is your best bet. That's because it's tightly integrated into the Apple ecosystem and works seamlessly with those devices and Apple services like iCloud. That makes for simple setup, more interoperability,  and smoother functioning. The Echo can work with a number of these devices, though not all, and you won't get the benefit of all of Apple's products and services through the Echo.