Apple is finally shipping the HomePod. The device will ship on February 9, seven months after its announcement at WWDC 2017. It will cost $349 and limited at launch to the US, UK and Australian markets.
The news comes from Apple who is touting HomePod’s Siri integration, saying its voice assistant is able to “send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories.” Most notably, Apple says Siri can control Apple Music seemingly confirming earlier reports users will not be able to use voice controls to control third party music services like Spotify or Pandora.
The speaker itself seems unchanged since its announcement in the summer of 2017. It’s seven inches tall with a top-mounted woofer and seven tweeters ringing the bottom. Hopefully it sounds as good as it did when we first heard it at WWDC.
Apple says the HomePod will gain multi-room audio through a free updated scheduled for release later this year. This will let users place multiple HomePods throughout the house and play music on all of them. Or if two are placed in the same room, they can be used as stereo speakers.
The HomePod is launching into a fast-growing market currently dominated by Amazon and Google. With the HomePod, Apple is offering superior audio but at a much higher price. Both Amazon and Google have made its offering nearly a commodity with prices starting under $50 but at $349, Apple is seemingly saying the HomePod is a premium product — though the feature set is more limited than Amazon or Google’s.
At first glance, the HomePod seems to fall short of the Echo or Google Home. Both Amazon and Google opened its platform up to third party developers giving most full access to the devices. Don’t like Amazon Music? Use Spotify. Apple hasn’t done that here though there is a developer program called SiriKit. Most core features are still limited to Apple products. It’s hard to say how this move translates in the real world. We’ll report back once we spend some time with the product.