Google Home vs Apple HomePod: Which One Is For You?

google home vs apple homepod
lifewire

With so many options that seem so similar, it can be hard to figure out which smart speaker is the best choice to welcome into your home. While Apple's HomePod was released after the Google Home, they are far closer in age than you might expect.

Deciding whether HomePod or Google Home is the best device for you depends on how you plan to use it. Both speakers can do the same kinds of things—answer questions, set timers, control smart-home devices, stream music—but they ways they do them, and the tools they use, can be pretty different. This article compares the two devices in 9 key areas to help you decide Google Home vs. Apple HomePod.    

TIP: Curious about how HomePod stacks up to the Amazon Echo? Check out​ Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod: Which One Do You Need?​

The Best Intelligent Assistant

The thing that makes a smart speaker smart is the intelligent assistant that listens for your voice and responds to your commands. It's not the only factor in deciding which speaker is best for you, but it's a big one.

Google Home

What We Like

  • Google Assistant is a powerful, flexible tool
  • Draws on Google's vast database of information, so it's great at answering questions
  • Supports third-party apps/actions

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't support secondary calendars (e.g. personal and work calendar for the same user)
  • If you have multiple devices near each other, they can all respond to the "OK Google" launch phrase, which is confusing

Apple HomePod

What We Like

  • "Hey Siri" is smart enough to only have the correct device respond when prompted

What We Don't Like

  • Siri is much more limited than Google Assistant when it comes to accessing information and performing tasks
  • ​HomePod doesn't allow third-party apps or skills on the device (but some iPhone apps can have them added)

Our Pick: Google Home

There's no question that Google Assistant is far ahead of Siri. Siri can respond well to a limited set of commands and questions, but Google Assistant can respond well to a wider set of scenarios and draws from a larger pool of information.

Streaming Music: Tie

One of the best things to use smart speakers for is streaming music. Just shouting out "play some happy music" is both a fun trick and a great mood lifter. Both devices can stream the most popular services.

Google Home

What We Like

  • Supports Google Play Music and YouTube Music, which are not natively supported on other smart speakers
  • Built in support for Spotify and iHeartRadio, and others

What We Don't Like

  • No Apple Music support

Apple HomePod

What We Like

What We Don't Like

  • Lack of native support for services other than Apple Music

Our Pick: Tie

Both speakers can play virtually any streaming music service you prefer. The difference is really native support. HomePod delivers native Apple Music support, meaning that it can be controlled via voice, but supports all streaming over AirPlay. The same is true for Google Home, except it has native support for Google services and streams over Bluetooth. Your preferred service should guide your decision, but fundamentally, you can stream virtually anything on both devices.

Sound Quality: HomePod

The range of music services supported by a smart speaker isn't the only thing to pay attention to. You want the music or podcasts you're listening to to sound fantastic.

Google Home

What We Like

  • Support for multi-room audio (all Google Home devices in the house playing the same audio)

What We Don't Like

  • Lower-quality sound than HomePod

Apple HomePod

What We Like

  • Best sound quality among all smart speakers, according to many different tests.
  • Siri can hear you even when audio volume is high, so you don't have to shout

What We Don't Like

  • No multi-room, or stereo-pair, audio support right now (should arrive with AirPlay 2 later in 2018)

Our Pick: HomePod

Apple has positioned HomePod as an audio device first, a smart speaker second, and it shows in the sound quality. HomePod sounds clear, detailed, and huge. Home, on the other hand, delivers decent sound, but can't match the room-rattling HomePod.

Smart Home: Tie

If you're making your home smarter with internet-connected, app-controlled smart-home gadgets, both HomePod and Home can help. You can speak to either device and ask them to raise or lower the temperature, turn off the lights, or perform any number of other tasks.

Google Home

What We Like

  • Controls major smart-home devices, like the Nest Thermostat or Philips Hue lightbulbs
  • Native support for Chromecast​

What We Don't Like

Apple HomePod

What We Like

  • Controls major smart-home devices, like Nest and Hue lights, via Apple's HomeKit standard

What We Don't Like

  • Fewer compatible devices than Amazon Echo

Our Pick: Tie

While neither Google Home nor the HomePod support as many smart-home devices as the Amazon Echo, both of them work with most of the major offerings. HomePod has the added benefit of HomeKit support, which means devices can be controlled from your iOS devices as well. Double check that your preferred smart-home gadgets work with the speaker you're interested in, but you shouldn't run into many problems.

Messaging and Calls: Google Home

With a smart speaker in your house, sending texts and making phone calls doesn't require your smartphone—but both Home and HomePod have some notable limitations in these areas. 

Google Home

What We Like

  • Make calls directly from Google Home

What We Don't Like

  • No support for text messaging

Apple HomePod

What We Like

  • Siri can read text messages and send them
  • Support for multiple texting apps, including Apple Messages and WeChat

What We Don't Like

Our Pick: Tie

Both devices have significant limitations and it's hard to say which will be fixed first. HomePod perhaps has a slight edge, since it can support both calls and texts, even if not totally smoothly. Google Home, on the other hand, can only send texts with awkward workarounds. Still, neither option is ideal.

Form Factor and Use in the House: Google Home

Different rooms and uses may call for smart speakers that come in different shapes and styles. 

Google Home

What We Like

  • Three different sizes for different uses and rooms: original Home, a six-inch-tall cylinder in different colors; Home Mini is like a small lump of pizza dough; Home Max is like a larger Bluetooth speaker or the Sonos PLAY:3.
  • Choice of colors

What We Don't Like

  • N/A

Apple HomePod

What We Like

  • Choice of colors (though only black or white)
  • Attractive styling
  • High-quality construction and materials

What We Don't Like

  • One size/shape/style
  • Limited colors

Our Pick: Google Home

The HomePod is typical of Apple hardware: beautifully designed, built to the highest standards, but also somewhat limited in its style options. If versatility and adaptability is what you want out of your smart speaker, Google Home—with its set of different sizes and shapes, and multiple colors—is your best bet.

Multiple Users: Google Home

If you've got more than one person in your household, you'll have more than one person who wants to use your smart speaker. But different smart speakers work with multiple users in different ways.

Google Home

What We Like

  • ​Supports up to 6 users​ and recognizes their voices
  • Can respond with individualized content, such as calendars and playlists

What We Don't Like

  • Can't delete, edit, or cancel events by voice

Apple HomePod

What We Like

  • Can add Notes, Reminders, and other content

What We Don't Like

Our Pick: Google Home

The HomePod's single-user support is deeply limited for multi-person households, putting it behind Google Home (and very far behind the Amazon Echo, which has pretty sophisticated multi-user support). Between these two devices, only Google Home offers anything approaching a tool that works for the whole family.

Apple/Google Ecosystem Integration: Tie

When buying a smart speaker, make sure you get one that works well with the broadest range of services and gadgets that you already have. That kind of compatibility makes these devices most useful.

Google Home

What We Like

  • Deep integration with Google services and devices, such as Chromecast

What We Don't Like

  • No connection to Apple services

Apple HomePod

What We Like

What We Don't Like

  • No connection to Google services

Our Pick: Tie

Like the streaming music services category, this one is mostly a toss up that is determined by what ecosystem you're aleady invested in. If you've already got a lot of Apple products, HomePod will interoperate with them smoothly and offer deep connections. On the other hand, Google fans will find Home gives them the best experience. 

And the Winner Is...

google home lineup
image credit: Google Inc.

Our Pick: Google Home

It's probably fair to say that both Google Home and Apple HomePod are behind the Amazon Echo in terms of features, third-party app support, and speed at which they're developing. But Echo isn't part of this comparison. 

When comparing just Google Home vs. Apple HomePod, Home stands out thanks to its more advanced features, multi-user support, and third-party apps. The smarts in the smart speaker are also a big advantage: Google Assistant is a lot smarter than Siri. 

HomePod is a great device if you primarily want to use it for music and other audio playback. But if you're looking for a versatile smart speaker with a well-rounded feature set, Google Home is the pick.