After missing the holiday shopping season, Apple has jumped into the voice speaker wars with the HomePod smart speaker, a device that will use its Siri voice assistant and compete against offerings from Amazon.com and Google.
Apple on Tuesday said it will start taking online orders for its HomePod smart speaker on Friday in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
The $349 voice-controlled speaker, introduced in June and originally scheduled for a December release, can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures. The speaker also will be able to send messages and play news updates from National Public Radio and CNN.
At under 7 inches tall, HomePod features powerful speaker technology:
- HomePod uses advanced software for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, echo cancellation and more, powered by Apple's A8 chip, delivering a spacious soundstage. Using spatial awareness to sense its location in the room, it automatically adjusts the audio to sound great wherever it is placed.
- HomePod features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep bass, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high frequency acoustics with directional control, and powerful technologies that preserve the and intent of original recordings. It comes with an array of six microphones.
Coming this year in a free software update, users will be able to play music throughout the house with multi-room audio. 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. If there's more than one HomePod set up in the same room, the speakers can be set up as a stereo pair.
Apple says that with HomePod, only after "Hey Siri" is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.
HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later.
As Apple failed to release the new speaker during the holiday season, Amazon and Google took the advantage to cut prices on their entry-level speakers in an aggressive push for market share.
Apple also is counting on HomePod to boost subscriptions to Apple Music and block the rise of rival Spotify. The smart speakers from Google and Amazon let users give voice commands to play Spotify but Apple Music does not work on the rival devices.