Apple’s HomePod speaker is finally going on sale. The HomePod was announced Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2017 and while it was supposed to start shipping in December 2017, the product was delayed for 2018. Now, Apple’s HomePod will be up for pre-orders from January 26 in the US, UK and Australia. HomePod will go on sale from February 9.
The HomePod will retail at a price of $349 in the US and it will come in white and space grey colour options. The pre-orders will first open in US, UK and Australia and it will later hit the stores. Apple.com, Apple Stores and select Apple authorised resellers will be selling the HomePod. Apple’s HomePod is a smart speaker, which can stream music from Apple Music, take commands via Siri, and also be used to control smart home appliances.
Now Apple’s HomePod is entering a market where this tough competition from well-established players like Amazon’s Echo series, which is available in a range of devices and price points. Amazon Echo is powered by the company’s Alexa voice-assistant. Google has its own Google Home speaker available in two sizes: Google Home and Google Home Mini, which is powered by the Google Assistant. Both Amazon and Google’s products are available at a much lower price points that Apple’s HomePod.
Apple’s HomePod is being pitched not just as a smart speaker, but also a high-end audio device for customers. “HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple. It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing in a press statement announcing the official release of the product.
In terms of dimensions, the Apple HomePod is around 7-inches tall (6.8-inches to be exact) and 5.6 inches wide and weighs 2.5 kg. On the audio technology side, HomePod has High-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, an array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each of which comes with their own custom amplifier, and a six-microphone array for far-field Siri. There’s also internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction, direct and ambient audio beamforming and transparent studio-level dynamic processing
Apple says HomePod uses “advanced software for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, echo cancellation and more and this is powered by the company’s A8 chip to give the best, spacious soundstage.” It relies on “spatial awareness to sense its location in the room” and “automatically adjusts the audio to sound great wherever it is placed,” claims the company.
Given it relies on Siri, Apple says HomePod can hear “Hey Siri” from across the room, even when loud music is playing. To setup the HomePod a user will simply have to hold an iPhone next to the speaker and it will connect automatically and start playing music. The Siri waveform will appear on top of the HomePod speaker when the user engages with the voice assistant appears and it also comes with integrated touch controls.
Siri on HomePod can be used to send messages, set timers, reminders, check weather, listen to podcasts, etc. HomePod can also be used as a speakerphone with iPhone, says Apple. It can also be used to control home accessories that are compatible with HomeKit.
Apple also says later this year they will include a free software update, where users will be able to play music throughout the house with multi-room audio. According to Apple, “if HomePod is in the kitchen, users can ask Siri to play jazz in the dining room, or play the same song in each room — perfectly in sync.” This applies when there is more than one HomePod in the home.