Updated Jul 28, 2020

HomePod vs. Sonos Move: What About Sonos One & Five?

Cam Secore

After a year of testing, I determined that Sonos Move is my favorite speaker of all time because it sounds great, works well with any music service or smart assistant, and it has a battery. However, HomePod is the better sounding speaker because it has a smoother bass, but I only recommend it to Apple Music users.

Want to learn how I reached this conclusion? Read on to see the detailed breakdown of user-friendliness, design, and sound quality that informed my overall impression.

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User-Friendliness

  • SonosA+
  • HomePodC

Compatibility: Sonos

Overall impression: Sonos works well with Android and iOS. You get to pick your favorite music service and either Alexa or Google for your voice assistant. You can play most mainstream music services inside the Sonos app. Also, you can usually play music from inside your preferred music app and send it to your speaker. Sonos is one of the most compatible speakers on the market and you won’t get locked into anyone’s ecosystem.

Ways to listen:

  1. The Sonos App. Locate your favorite music service in the Sonos app, log into the service, then play music from your music service via the Sonos app.
  2. Ask Google Assistant. YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio. and Deezer are compatible.
  3. Ask Alexa. Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Gimme Radio, and SiriusXM are compatible.
  4. AirPlay. iOS users can use their regular streaming apps and send the music to the Sonos speaker. Tap the triangle icon on the music playback screen, then tap your Sonos speaker and it will start playing music.
  5. Spotify Connect. Open the Spotify app, play a song, tap the speaker icon in the bottom left corner, send the music to your Sonos. Spotify Connect is more reliable than AirPlay, and it works with Android and iOS devices.
  6. Cast. You can cast to Sonos from Amazon Music and Pandora when you tap the cast icon and choose your Sonos.

Personal experience: If you’re a Spotify user, the combination of Sonos and Spotify Connect is too good to pass up. Unlike AirPlay, the stream isn’t dependent on your phone, so your phone’s battery won’t drain and it doesn’t need to be within range of the speaker. 

My friends and I have been using the Sonos app and lining up the queue with songs for six years. It’s fun to give everyone on your network control of the music.

Compatibility: HomePod

Overall impression: HomePod doesn’t work with Android devices because it can only be set up with an iPhone. HomePod uses Siri as the voice assistant, but Siri is limited to five streaming services. You can AirPlay any music service from your iPhone, but AirPlay suffers from occasional music cutouts, a lag when skipping songs, and Siri confusion.

Ways to listen:

  1. Ask Siri. Apple Music, Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Radio.com, and TuneIn are compatible.
  2. AirPlay. You can AirPlay from any audio or music service from your iPhone.

Personal experience: HomePod is a speaker built for Apple Music. I regularly use AirPlay to play Spotify or YouTube content on the speaker, but the connection isn’t as strong as I’d like.

Voice Assistant: Sonos

Overall impression: Sonos uses Alexa and Google Assistant as its voice assistants. You pick which assistant you want during the setup, but you can switch at any time. The assistants work almost as well as native Amazon and Google devices. The downside is that the Sonos mics aren’t as strong as HomePod’s, and you lose Apple’s tight ecosystem integration.

Features: 

  • All the Alexa and Google smart home devices work with Sonos.
  • Alexa and Google are great for checking the weather, setting timers, performing smart home device tasks, and music playback.
  • Google’s Voice Match supports third-party speakers. You can add up to six voices on your speaker, which will give each user personalized responses. This lets different household members bring up their personalized calendars, reminders, and music, just by speaking.

Issues:

  • You’ll need to manually install a voice assistant and the setup isn’t flawless. Once your voice assistant is synced with Sonos, the voice assistant settings can be edited in the Google Home or Alexa app, rather than the Sonos app. The good news is that if you already have your smart home devices configured from a previous smart speaker, you won’t have to do it again.
  • You can’t make calls, access your text messages, or write in your iPhone’s calendar, notes, or reminders.
  • The hearing isn’t as precise as HomePod, but it’s not bad.
  • Sonos plays an irritating chime/ding sound after you say “Alexa” or “Hey Google” that interrupts you. You can disable the chime, but then you’re left with a tiny LED light indicator to let you know it’s listening.
  • Alexa has voice match technology on their Echo devices, but unfortunately, it’s not available on Sonos speakers.

Privacy: With Google and Alexa speakers, the words said before and after the wake word are processed in the cloud. This data is encrypted in transit, but the request is still tied to your account. If you’re concerned about your privacy, you should opt-out of the Google and Amazon employee reviews, and turn off personalized advertising. You should be able to protect yourself by disabling some of the tracking features, but keep in mind that both companies earn billions from advertising. Data is important to them.

Personal experience: Alexa integration has improved on Sonos speakers since the inception, but the “Alexa” wake word is sensitive and has lots of false triggers. Unfortunately, it can’t be changed to “Echo,” “Computer,” or “Amazon” as you can with an Echo speaker. If I wanted a voice assistant on my Sonos Move, Google Assistant is the clear choice because of fewer false triggers and Voice Match.

Voice Assistant: HomePod

Overall impression: HomePod’s voice recognition and understanding are unparalleled. Siri understands your commands in a normal voice with the music playing at 100% volume. It can hear you with a whisper if nothing is playing. Siri can perform any Apple Music task flawlessly and usually does well with HomeKit smart home tasks. Where Siri struggles is that it sometimes knows exactly what you’ve asked, but it doesn’t know what to do with the information that you’ve provided.

Features:

  • Siri can control HomeKit devices (see the list here). Big names like Philips Hue, Ecobee, WeMo, and August are HomeKit compatible. Nest, Harmony, Roomba, and Ring aren’t compatible.
  • Adding smart home accessories is a breeze. Smart home devices and automations are controlled in the Apple Home app.
  • You can teach HomePod your voice, and it’ll know who’s speaking. It’s great for personal requests like managing your calendar, calling, and texting. It’s also helpful for Apple Music. When someone says “Hey Siri, play some music” it plays music tailored to that person’s interests.
  • Because Siri has access to your phone, it can send, receive, and read iMessages.

Issues:

  • Don’t bother asking Siri the type of questions that you’d ask a search engine because it won’t know how to answer them.
  • Siri frequently says, “I can’t do that on HomePod,” but it doesn’t hand off the task to Apple Watch or iPhone. You’re left with no help.
  • The worst part about Siri on HomePod is that it’s gotten worse over the two years that I’ve owned it. Two years ago, Siri would perform HomeKit tasks (e.g. lights, locks, thermostats) quickly with about 99% accuracy. Now, there are times when I’ll ask it to turn off a set of lights and I’ll get back “Sorry, I don’t see that device in the Home App” even though Siri has performed this task many times previously.
  • When you have multiple HomePod speakers in the same house, they don’t communicate well with each other. There were times when my kitchen HomePod had a timer go off and I’d say “Hey Siri, stop the timer,” while standing in the kitchen, and the HomePod from two rooms away says “There are no timers on HomePod.” It’s a terrible user experience.

Privacy: The words said before “Hey SirI’ are processed locally on HomePod and aren’t sent to the cloud. After you ask Siri to do something, it creates a tokenized ID that’s sent to the cloud and encrypted end-to-end. In simple terms: Your request and data are anonymized and Apple shouldn’t know what you’re asking. Apple may review anonymous clips to improve their machine learning, but you can opt-out.

Personal experience: HomePod isn’t the answer if you’ve already started building your smart home on another platform. I’m fine with Apple’s limited smart home product compatibility because I built my home around the HomeKit platform from the beginning.

Design

  • SonosA+
  • HomePodB-

Usability: Sonos

Overall impression: Sonos Move looks great and is well-built. It’s the perfect WiFi speaker when you’re home, but it has Bluetooth and a battery for when you leave the house. You have the freedom to move it to a new room without being near a power outlet.

Features:

  • Sonos Move comes in polycarbonate matte white or black finish.
  • It weighs 6.61 pounds and it’s 9.4” tall. (For reference, it’s smaller than Sonos Five, but twice the size of Sonos One.)
  • It’s aesthetically pleasing, feels well-built, and the touch-controls are conveniently located on top.
  • Sonos Move has a built-in battery that’s rated for 11 hours of playtime. In my tests, I got ten hours at 40% volume, seven hours at 60% volume, and four hours at 85% volume. 
  • Sonos Move has a USB C port for charging, but it also comes with a charging dock so that your speaker always has a full battery.
  • You can switch to Bluetooth mode when you leave your house by tapping the button on the back of the speaker.
  • It has an IP56 rating, and according to Sonos, it’ll withstand “falls, bumps, rain and moisture, dust and dirt, UV and extreme temperatures.”

Annoyances: 

  • There’s no clear indicator when Alexa or Google are listening to you. A tiny white LED lights up, but it can’t be seen from far away.

Usability: HomePod

Overall impression: HomePod looks great and it’s the perfect size, but it requires constant power and WiFi.

Features:

  • HomePod comes in White and Space Gray. It’s made of a squishy mesh material.
  • It’s 7” high, 6” inches around and weighs 5.5 pounds.
  • HomePod has colored LED lights on top to let you know it’s listening and are visible from everywhere. The display includes touch play, pause, and skip buttons.
  • The power cord is made of the same mesh material to match HomePod. It’s the nicest power cord I’ve ever seen.

Annoyances:

  • HomePod is light enough to move to different rooms, but you’ll always be bound to a power outlet and a WiFi connection, and when you unplug the speaker, it’ll restart.
  • Due to the mesh material, HomePod is harder to keep clean. You can’t easily wipe something off and dust can get inside.
  • It doesn’t have Bluetooth,but streaming with WiFi is a better experience.
  • No battery.

Sound

  • SonosB
  • HomePodA-

Sound Quality: Sonos Move

Overall impression: Sonos Move is outdone by HomePod’s cleaner bass, but when it’s not side-by-side with high-end speakers, you won’t ever be disappointed by Sonos Move’s sound quality. Sonos Move gets louder and has more bass when compared to Sonos One. 

Technology:

  • Sonos Move has two Class-D digital amplifiers, one mid-woofer and one downward-firing tweeter.
  • Sonos Move has Auto Trueplay, which means that the sound adjusts based on the surroundings of the speaker. When you move the speaker you can hear it adjust the sound for the first minute before it settles down and calibrates completely.

My notes:

  • Sonos Move adapts to its surroundings, but not as well as HomePod because it’s not omnidirectional (in other words, someone sitting behind the speaker will have a worse experience than the person whom the speakers are facing).
  • Sonos Move stays well balanced with crisp vocals and it has plenty of bass.
  • While Sonos Move gets a lot louder than Sonos One, the sound quality starts to degrade at around 85%, which is still louder than HomePod.
  • Sonos Five (previously Sonos Play:5) beats Move in a landslide because the bass is much cleaner and the high and mids are smoother too. Sonos Five has three tweeters and three woofers compared to Move’s one woofer and one tweeter, and it gets better as you throw more volume at it.

Sound Quality: HomePod

Overall impression: There’s no better-sounding speaker in this size than HomePod. It automatically calibrates the sound based on the surroundings of the room. It has deep bass with crisp vocals and can handle any type of audio that you throw at it. HomePod’s signature sound is preserved at all volume levels.

Technology:

  • It has a seven-tweeter array and a six-microphone array.
  • HomePod has the mind of a computer because it has the A8 processing chip (the same chip in iPhone 6).
  • HomePod takes the data it gets from the microphones and makes a model of the room in real-time. Then, after the first couple of minutes of playing music, HomePod automatically tunes based on room conditions.
  • There’s an accelerometer that helps HomePod recognize when you move it and re-adjusts the sound.

My notes:

  • Usually, audio distorts once a speaker’s volume goes past a certain point, but HomePod sounds crisp, lifelike, and excellent at every volume level. The clarity at 10% volume is the same as 100%.
  • With the volume up high enough to fill the room, it can be hard to hear where the speaker is located.
  • Compared to Move, HomePod’s defining sound difference is its bass. Sonos Move has lots of bass, but HomePod has a clearer bass.
  • For comparison, Sonos Five is the best sounding speaker that I’ve ever owned. It beats HomePod by a solid margin because it gets louder and does better with the mid-tones.

The Verdict

sonos move

Sonos Move

10

Get Sonos Move if you don’t want to be locked into Apple's ecosystem or you want to bring your speaker outdoors. The bass isn’t as clear as HomePod’s, but the overall sound is great and the portability and platform openness make it a smarter buy.

apple homepod

Apple HomePod

9

Get HomePod if you’re an Apple user and want to keep your speaker inside. Siri performs Apple Music and HomeKit tasks perfectly, but not much else. While AirPlay isn’t perfect, it’ll let you stream any audio service to HomePod.

Other options:

If you don’t like either of those options, a pair of Sonos One speakers sounds better than HomePod or Sonos Move (for close to the same price). The downside is that you’ll need two and Sonos One is an indoor-only speaker without Bluetooth.

Just be warned that the sound on just one Sonos One speaker isn’t anything special, and you need to manually calibrate the speaker each time you move it. Assuming Trueplay is enabled, the sound has the same clarity as Sonos Move with less bass and less volume.

Alternatively, If you’re willing to sacrifice everything for the best sound quality, Sonos Five is the best sounding speaker in the $500 range. The downsides include the lack of portability, the huge size, and the lack of Bluetooth and a smart assistant, but it’s the best speaker I’ve ever owned despite those shortcomings. I favor Sonos Move because I value portability more than sound.

 

I’ve been obsessed with gadgets since I was eight years old. I buy each device reviewed with MY money and don’t have insider access. I’m just like you, the everyman.

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