Sonos One vs Apple HomePod: the smart speakers put head to head

Which of these high-fidelity audio streamers is the right purchase for you?

Sonos One vs Apple HomePod

When it comes to shopping for smart speakers, the Sonos One and the Apple HomePod have to be somewhere near the top of your shortlist: they both offer excellent sound quality, intuitive software and voice control, and refined designs in black or white.

So if you're picking between these two rather appealing options, how do you make that decision? Let's dive in and look in detail at the differences and the similarities when it comes to the Apple HomePod and the Sonos One, so you know which one to choose.

Sonos One vs Apple HomePod: design

Sonos One

Sonos One

If you're hoping for smart speaker designs to move away from the chunky pod look anytime soon, you're going to be disappointed with the Sonos One and the Apple HomePod. Both take the traditional smart speaker approach of a compact, minimalistic design and an outer grill – but that's not to say they're ugly exactly, quite the opposite. Both are available in white or black.

At 161.45 mm x 119.7 mm x 119.7 mm (6.36 inches x 4.69 inches x 4.69 inches), the Sonos One is the slightly smaller of the two. It's also lighter, tipping the scales at 1.85 kg (4.08 lbs) – though you're unlikely to be spending a lot of time carrying your smart speaker around the house, as it needs a power connection. Physical buttons sit on top of the speaker for controlling volume, playback, and so on (if you don't want to use the app).

The Apple HomePod, meanwhile, measures 172 mm x 142 mm x 142 mm (that's 6.8 inches x 5.6 inches x 5.6 inches), and weighs in at 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs). Again, there are buttons on top of the device for playing and pausing your music, accessing Siri, and controlling other playback basics without a phone or computer. The Apple HomePod is more rounded than the Sonos One speaker, if that makes a difference to you.

Sonos One vs Apple HomePod: features

Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod

As you've probably guessed, both these speakers will play music and other kinds of audio for you, and both can be controlled via voice. As for audio quality, they both rank very, very highly – these are quality speakers – but most of the comparisons out there suggest the Sonos One just edges it, slightly (perhaps Sonos' past experience coming into play).

Sonos has apps for just about everything: Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, for example. You can use any of these with the Sonos One, or you can use the Spotify app or Apple's AirPlay standard to connect to the speaker instead. Amazon Alexa is on board, if you want to launch music with your voice, and Sonos is promising Google Assistant support soon as well – though we don't have a date for when that might arrive. If you're streaming Apple Music from an iOS device over AirPlay, you can use Siri as well.

The Apple HomePod, as you might expect, is more Apple-focused. Siri is on board, but there's no sign of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and to stream music and audio you need to be using iTunes on a Mac or PC, or an Apple TV, or an iPhone or an iPad. Also, Apple Podcasts is the only podcasting app that works with the HomePod, so if you're using a different podcast app (or any kind of Android device) you're out of luck.

Sonos One vs Apple HomePod: software

Sonos One

Sonos One

As we've mentioned above, where the Sonos One and the Apple HomePod differ is in the apps and digital assistants you can use, so it's worth double-checking how compatible they're going to be with your existing kit before spending hundreds of pounds or dollars on a purchase.

We know all about the Apple Music apps for iOS and Android – they're slick and simple to use, but you're only going to be able to use them if you actually subscribe to Apple Music every month, otherwise you'll be limited to iTunes streaming from a computer. Apple Music is a fine service, but it's another cost to add on to the cost of the HomePod.

As for Sonos, you can use the Spotify apps for desktop or mobile (which are both very good), or the apps that Sonos makes itself (which are fine without being great). Those Sonos apps are a bit clunky but they do let you import tunes from multiple sources, including local media libraries, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, Plex, Tidal and many more.

Sonos One vs Apple HomePod: verdict

Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod

With the Sonos One and Apple HomePod speakers so well matched in terms of design and sound quality, it really comes down to what you want to do with them – the Sonos One works with far more music and audio services than the Apple HomePod, which is really only the best option if you exclusively use Apple Music and Apple hardware.

Then there are the prices – check the widgets on this page for the latest deals, but the Sonos One is significantly cheaper than the Apple HomePod at the moment, which may well influence your buying decision. You can do more with a Sonos One speaker and it's going to cost you a lot less, which leaves the Apple HomePod looking like the best option for Apple and Siri loyalists only.

That said, both these speakers feature quality audio output, and neither are going to disappoint you when you've got them installed and set up inside the home. Keep your eyes (and ears) open for future products from both Sonos and Apple in the smart speaker space, as the next generation of smart speakers are likely to be even better.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.