Which Smart Home Hub?

snerkler

Distinguished Member
Hi,

I'm wanting to buy my wife a smart home hub for Christmas as she keeps saying she fancies one whenever we see the ads for them. I doubt it'll get used to control things around the house (although this could change in the future) so will be mainly used for asking questions and playing music.

Initially I was going to just buy the Amazon echo (as it's the only one I'd heard of) but on looking into it I see there are various ones and am also considering the Google Home and Apple HomePod. On first thoughts the Apple HomePod seems like the obvious choice as we're heavily in the Apple EcoSystem (Mac, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV) and I assume we could play music from our phones over the HomePod, and if we want to subscribe to a streaming service we can subscribe to Apple Music and use it on our phones too.

However, before I take the plunge I wondered if there was anything glaringly obvious I'm missing and that the Echo or Google Home are actually much better? I know these have more compatible devices, but as I said I doubt we are going to turn our house into a smart house any time soon.

Any help would be appreciated.
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
I have a few Echo Dots and a HomePod mini – like yours, our house is heavily Apple. I have the basic Amazon Music because I have Prime and don’t subscribe to Apple Music. My thoughts, for what they’re worth…

The HomePod mini is nice and the sound is excellent for the size. And, yes, AirPlay from iPhones is flawless (although I do get occasional connection issues and drop-outs doing it from my 2012 Mac mini). I like Apple’s commitment to privacy.

But the voice control is perhaps more limited. You can ask Alexa to play Radio 2 and it will; Siri won’t, the only way to do it is to open the BBC Sounds app on the iPhone, choose the station and then AirPlay it. That limitation on its own prevents me from replacing the Dots with HomePod minis.

If you do end up going down the smart-home route Alexa is compatible with more things, although I like having it all together in the Home app. And there are workarounds for HomeKit like Homebridge, although I haven’t tried it for the couple of non-HomeKit smart devices I have.

Much as I like Apple stuff, I’m hard pressed to recommend the HomePod mini over an Echo. For someone wanting to dip their toe, you can currently get a 3rd-gen Echo Dot for £19 from Amazon. Even if you find it’s not for you or doesn’t get used, it’s a cheap way to find out.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
I have a few Echo Dots and a HomePod mini – like yours, our house is heavily Apple. I have the basic Amazon Music because I have Prime and don’t subscribe to Apple Music. My thoughts, for what they’re worth…

The HomePod mini is nice and the sound is excellent for the size. And, yes, AirPlay from iPhones is flawless (although I do get occasional connection issues and drop-outs doing it from my 2012 Mac mini). I like Apple’s commitment to privacy.

But the voice control is perhaps more limited. You can ask Alexa to play Radio 2 and it will; Siri won’t, the only way to do it is to open the BBC Sounds app on the iPhone, choose the station and then AirPlay it. That limitation on its own prevents me from replacing the Dots with HomePod minis.

If you do end up going down the smart-home route Alexa is compatible with more things, although I like having it all together in the Home app. And there are workarounds for HomeKit like Homebridge, although I haven’t tried it for the couple of non-HomeKit smart devices I have.

Much as I like Apple stuff, I’m hard pressed to recommend the HomePod mini over an Echo. For someone wanting to dip their toe, you can currently get a 3rd-gen Echo Dot for £19 from Amazon. Even if you find it’s not for you or doesn’t get used, it’s a cheap way to find out.
Thanks for your reply. If I go the Alexa route it would have to be the Echo for the better sound so that narrows the gap price wise. I have Prime but my wife doesn’t but I guess we could always set it up with my account to get the free Prime Music. I’m not sure how limited the free music is though so will take a look.
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Thanks for your reply. If I go the Alexa route it would have to be the Echo for the better sound so that narrows the gap price wise. I have Prime but my wife doesn’t but I guess we could always set it up with my account to get the free Prime Music. I’m not sure how limited the free music is though so will take a look.
Fourth-gen Echo currently £55, if that helps. You’ve picked a good time of year for discounts.

Another option – though considerably more expensive – is the Sonos One. Not tied to any one music-streaming service, Alexa/Google Assistant built in, AirPlay 2, and better sound than the other two (general consensus, at least).

Actually, that’s probably not the best suggestion – for the price of a Sonos One you could get an Echo and a HomePod mini and try both. Or two minis and set up as a pair or have in different rooms.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
Fourth-gen Echo currently £55, if that helps. You’ve picked a good time of year for discounts.

Another option – though considerably more expensive – is the Sonos One. Not tied to any one music-streaming service, Alexa/Google Assistant built in, AirPlay 2, and better sound than the other two (general consensus, at least).

Actually, that’s probably not the best suggestion – for the price of a Sonos One you could get an Echo and a HomePod mini and try both. Or two minis and set up as a pair or have in different rooms.
Yeah, not interested in the Sonos. Definitely down to the Apple and Echo, I’ve been waiting to see what Black Friday brings but Apple very rarely/never give discounts from what I’ve seen.

The thing making me lean towards Apple is that we can play stuff from our phones, not sure if you can control the phone via the HomePod though? Can you use the Echo as a kind of Bluetooth speaker to play music from the iphone?

One of the things putting me off the HomePod is Siri, on the iphone Siri tends to just show answers rather than speaking them, not sure how this works on the HomePod?
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Yeah, not interested in the Sonos. Definitely down to the Apple and Echo, I’ve been waiting to see what Black Friday brings but Apple very rarely/never give discounts from what I’ve seen.

The thing making me lean towards Apple is that we can play stuff from our phones, not sure if you can control the phone via the HomePod though? Can you use the Echo as a kind of Bluetooth speaker to play music from the iphone?

One of the things putting me off the HomePod is Siri, on the iphone Siri tends to just show answers rather than speaking them, not sure how this works on the HomePod?
PresumIng the full-size Echo works the same as the Dots, you can pair it with your phone over Bluetooth and then use it as a Bluetooth speaker when you want by saying “Alexa, connect to my phone”. Still prefer AirPlay and if it’s phone-to-device the user experience is nicer with the HomePod, I find, as they’re designed to work together.

Siri on the HomePod speaks fine. When you say it gives text responses on your phone, you don’t have the silent switch toggled, do you? If I’ve got my phone on silent via the switch, which I do most of the time, it will only give spoken answers if the phone’s locked. If it’s in use the screen just shows the text answer. Flick the switch to turn the sound back on and it’s all spoken.

From the sound of it I think you’d be happy with either but if you got the Echo you’d be thinking “Hmm, should I have got the HomePod?” :)
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
PresumIng the full-size Echo works the same as the Dots, you can pair it with your phone over Bluetooth and then use it as a Bluetooth speaker when you want by saying “Alexa, connect to my phone”. Still prefer AirPlay and if it’s phone-to-device the user experience is nicer with the HomePod, I find, as they’re designed to work together.

Siri on the HomePod speaks fine. When you say it gives text responses on your phone, you don’t have the silent switch toggled, do you? If I’ve got my phone on silent via the switch, which I do most of the time, it will only give spoken answers if the phone’s locked. If it’s in use the screen just shows the text answer. Flick the switch to turn the sound back on and it’s all spoken.

From the sound of it I think you’d be happy with either but if you got the Echo you’d be thinking “Hmm, should I have got the HomePod?” :)
Whichever I go for I’ll wonder if I should have got the other 😂

I do have the volume switch off yes, but it does still talk to say “Here’s what I’ve found” and then gives you a load of text. I’ll try it with the volume switch on 👍🏻
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Whichever I go for I’ll wonder if I should have got the other 😂

I do have the volume switch off yes, but it does still talk to say “Here’s what I’ve found” and then gives you a load of text. I’ll try it with the volume switch on 👍🏻
Ah, that must be if it’s a long answer or something. I’ll admit my interaction with the HomePod is mainly asking what the weather’s going to be like.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
In the end I've gone for the Echo, my wife’s interest is mainly asking questions and asking the smart hub to do things rather than play music and from what I’ve read Alexa is better for this.

If I was buying it for me I’d have bought the Apple HomeHub though ;)
 

The latest video from AVForums

Samsung S95B QD OLED Review - A Quantum Leap for OLED!
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom