High fidelity audio

Apple HomePod

Affordable and flexible

Amazon Echo (2nd Gen)

If you're fully invested in the Apple ecosystem, the HomePod is a fantastic smart speaker with superior audio quality. It's designed mostly for music, so if you subscribe to Apple Music, the native integration with that allows you to listen to anything in high fidelity. You can also get access to your Podcasts natively, give Siri commands, and even AirPlay other forms of media to the smart speaker.

$349 at Apple

Pros

  • High fidelity audio quality
  • Built-in Apple Music integration
  • Compatible with HomeKit
  • Ambient Siri for digital assistant
  • Apple's focus on privacy

Cons

  • No Bluetooth compatibility
  • Need to AirPlay other music streaming services
  • Only compatible with Apple devices
  • No Alexa or Google Assistant

Amazon Echo is a highly affordable smart speaker, more so than the HomePod. It has decent audio quality with the 360-degree speakers with Dolby, and Alexa is a pretty capable digital assistant. However, since this is an Amazon product, it integrates seamlessly with Amazon, but Apple services will require some tinkering with skills. Also, there may be privacy concerns with Amazon Alexa.

$75 at Amazon

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Integrates with your Amazon account
  • Works with Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc. with skills
  • Lets you call and message others
  • Compatible with iOS and Android

Cons

  • Audio quality is not as good compared to HomePod
  • Apple services are not built-in
  • Privacy concerns

Apple designed the HomePod to be perfect for audiophiles who truly love their music. The high fidelity audio you get from the HomePod is one of the best on the market, and the smart ambient Siri integration is just icing on the cake, that is, if you prefer to use Siri. However, Amazon's 2nd Gen Echo is a decent speaker for all sources of audio, and the more mature "Works with Alexa" ecosystem gives you more control over your smart home devices.

The breakdown

Apple White HomePod on a shelf in minimalistic settingPictured: the Apple HomePod

If you are looking for a great smart speaker to play a lot of music on, then you're going to want something with high fidelity sound, and that's HomePod. For those who aren't audiophiles and just want a decent little smart speaker with a lot of compatibility and features with non-Apple services, then Amazon's 2nd generation Echo is the way to go.

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Apple HomePod Amazon 2nd Gen Echo
Price $349 $100
Digital Assistant Siri Alexa
Audio quality Apple-engineered audio technology and advanced software 360° audio with Dolby
Bluetooth No Yes
Apple Music Built-in Requires Skill
Other music streaming services Through AirPlay only Yes
AirPlay 2 Yes No
Smart Home compatible HomeKit Yes
Privacy focus Yes No
Platform compatibility Apple only iOS and Android

While Apple's HomePod seems mighty expensive (which it is), it is one of the best sounding speakers on the market. This one is definitely built more for audiophiles who choose to use Apple Music, which is built-in to the HomePod. And if you're already invested in the Apple ecosystem, HomePod is great because of the ambient Siri that's integrated. With HomePod, you can have Siri do things like make calls, send messages, add a reminder, set alarms and timers, turn on your HomeKit-compatible devices, and more.

Apple Music is also a pretty good music streaming service, and it's integrated seamlessly into HomePod. You'll have access to your iCloud Music Library, everything that's streamable on Apple Music, and even access to radio stations like Beats 1. Siri will also be able to pretty much pull up anything that you'll feel like listening to without breaking a sweat. However, if you aren't an Apple Music subscriber but still want to use HomePod for music, it's still a viable option. You'll just need to AirPlay your music streaming service from your iOS device to the HomePod instead. It's not as convenient as built-in integration, but it works well.

The HomePod is for people who want a high fidelity speaker; the Echo is a nifty little speaker with more features.

Siri itself is a decent digital assistant, but there is always the issue where she doesn't understand what you said. In the past, I've often had issues with Siri not understanding what I want her to do, but Apple has made a lot of improvements to Siri since I last used it. However, I often never have issues with Amazon Alexa, but your mileage may vary here. Both digital assistants are capable of doing the same things, so the one you pick ends up coming down to personal preference and how invested you are into either Apple or Amazon's ecosystem. However, keep in mind that HomePod and Siri will only be able to control your smart home devices only if they're HomeKit compatible, whereas Alexa works with anything that has the "Works with Alexa" tag.

If you're not a big audiophile but still want an all-around smart speaker that can play some music here and there, then Amazon Echo is for you (and most people). It's a much more mature system with a lot of compatibility with smart home devices (like controlling your smart lights), music streaming services, is highly customizable with the hundreds of skills available, and is fully integrated with your Amazon account. The only drawback is that there are some privacy concerns with Alexa that seem to hit the news.

Overall, if you are all-in on the Apple ecosystem and need high fidelity audio, then go with the HomePod, that is if you can afford it (watch for deals). If you don't care about superior audio quality and want a better smart speaker overall with compatibility with more devices and features, then go with the Amazon Echo.

Our pick

Apple HomePod

Superior high fidelity audio

The HomePod is the speaker for any music aficionados who use Apple Music and want incredible sound quality. It also has ambient Siri integration, so you can give commands to Siri from anywhere in the room, and she will hear you. You can also use HomePod to control your HomeKit enabled smart devices around the house.

Great overall smart speaker

Amazon Echo (2nd gen)

Affordable and functional

The Amazon 2nd Generation Echo is a great smart speaker for most people. The audio quality is fairly decent (definitely not HomePod-quality but not bad), and it's fully integrated with your Amazon account. You can use Alexa and tell her to play music from a variety of streaming services, including Apple Music and Amazon Music, add items to your shopping list, tell her to turn on your smart home devices, and more. There are hundreds of Skills available to customize Alexa to do what you want.

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