Apple HomePod finally available to buy, three years after the Echo
Apple’s delayed £319 HomePod smart speaker will finally be available to buy on Friday in the UK, US and Australia.
The 17.8cm tall HomePod is pitched as a music-first wireless speaker that can be controlled by voice using Apple’s Siri assistant, which can also set timers, reminders, check the weather and control smart home devices.
“It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalogue 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.
The HomePod was announced in June to ship before the end of 2017, but Apple was forced to delay shipping in November as the product needed more work. Apple could only watch as Amazon got an over three-year head start with the Echo – while Google’s Home is 14 months old – and it now has some catching up to do.
Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said: “This is a critically important device for Apple given the significant head start Amazon and Google have in this area.
“HomePod needs to quickly be much more than a high-end audio speaker and the hub for Apple’s smart home ambitions with HomeKit.”
The HomePod supports Apple’s Music streaming service and a user’s iTunes library, but support for market-leader Spotify or other competing music services remains in doubt. Similar to competitors, Apple says two HomePods can be used in a stereo configuration, while multiple HomePods can be used for multi-room audio playback, but only after an update due later this year.
Mirroring Amazon and Google’s offerings, the HomePod will listen out for the “Hey, Siri” wake word, before streaming voice queries to Apple for action. It will be able to control smart home devices that support Apple’s HomeKit system, pull headlines from BBC, Sky News and LBC, as well as be used as a speakerphone with the iPhone.
Siri will also be able to send messages via third-party apps such as WhatsApp, and take notes in apps such as Evernote. But doubts remain over how well Apple’s voice assistant will function, as it is widely seen as lagging far behind Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant in both voice recognition and capability.
The HomePod will be available in store on 9 February in white or space grey. Apple says the HomePod will work with devices running iOS 11.2.5 or later, ruling out the iPhone 5 or older devices.
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