After being spotted at the FCC last week, we thought that Apple might be close to launching its HomePod smart speaker. As it turns out, those suspicions were right, with Apple finally announcing a release date today. Originally scheduled to launch before the end of 2017, Apple delayed the HomePod at the last minute, pushing it back into 2018 and missing the ever-so-crucial holiday shopping season.
That holiday season was a big one for smart speakers, so Apple certainly missed a big opportunity in delaying the HomePod. In any case, we now know when it will be here, and it’s launching sooner than many of us probably expected. Apple has revealed that the HomePod will launch on February 9, with pre-orders opening later this week on Apple.com.
The HomePod represents a fairly risky entry into the smart speaker market for Apple. While Amazon and Google have found great success in offering smart speakers around or below a $100 price point, Apple’s HomePod will cost a whopping $349. It’s clear, then, that Apple’s mainly competing with higher-end speakers from companies like Sonos and the freshly launched Google Home Max, which clocks in at a rather expensive $400.
Perhaps that’s why Apple seems to be focusing on Apple Music integration first and foremost. Much of Apple’s focus in promoting the HomePod has been the speaker’s hardware, with its large woofer, seven beam-forming tweeters, and six-microphone array. Equipped with an A8 chip, the HomePod is even capable of using spatial awareness to figure out its placement in a room and adjust audio levels based on its location.
Of course, HomePod will also play the part of a home assistant running Siri, but it sounds like this iteration of Siri may not be as capable as something like Amazon’s Alexa. You’ll still be able to use Siri on the HomePod to place calls, send messages, check headlines, and control HomeKit smart home devices, and though third-party developers will be able to integrate Siri into their messaging apps with SiriKit, it sounds like those developers won’t have free reign to create new uses for Siri like they do with Alexa’s extensive list of skills.
Still, if you’re already waist deep in the Apple ecosystem and you value sound quality over everything else in a smart home speaker, this could be a worthwhile buy. There are still some details Apple needs to reveal as we get closer to and eventually move beyond launch, such as whether or not HomePod will work with music streaming services aside from Apple Music, but it shouldn’t be long before our remaining questions are answered. If you already know the HomePod is something you want, you’ll be able to pre-order the speaker this Friday over at Apple.com.