Apple’s $349 Premium Siri-Powered Smart Speaker Starts Shipping February 9

Posted on January 23, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in iOS with 14 Comments

Apple is getting ready to release its premium smart speaker next month. The company originally planned to release the HomePod smart speaker late last year. But this Friday, Apple will finally start taking pre-orders for the HomePod in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.

The HomePod is powered by Apple’s A8 chip and comes with a large, high-excursion woofer, seven tweeters and six microphones. Like the Cortana powered Harman Kardon Invoke, there’s a display on the top of it where Siri’s animations are displayed. You can talk to the personal assistant with the Hey Siri hotword, and use it to check the news, ask questions, or do anything else you can with Siri on the iPhone or Mac.

Of course, HomePod isn’t a direct competitor for something like the Amazon Echo, as Apple is positioning it as more of a premium speaker. For example, the device comes with spatial awareness, which allows the speaker to adapt the music depending on where it’s placed in your room — just like the Google Home Max. 

For those looking to get multiple HomePods for their house, there’s a big deal breaker: multi-room audio and stereo support isn’t launching on day 1. Instead, Apple will roll out support for multi-room audio sometime this year with a new update, letting users control the different HomePods in their house.

A big problem for the HomePod will likely be to do with Siri, which is actually quite far behind when compared to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Not a lot of services properly integrate with Siri, and you’ll only get to use Apple Music on the HomePod for music streaming — for now, anyway. Apple is, however, letting third-party apps and services connect to Siri on the HomePod through the SiriKit, and apps like WhatsApp, Things (to-do list), Evernote will work with Siri on the HomePod. It’s not known whether Spotify will be able to integrate its music streaming service on the HomePod.

Here’s the thing: the HomePod will only be a sensible purchase if you are a heavy user of the Apple ecosystem — and that means you have an Apple Music subscription, you use an iPhone, you use iCloud, and you have a Mac. If you do use multiple different platforms that aren’t owned or controlled by Apple, you’re probably better off getting a Google Home Max.

You can pre-order one here, this Friday.

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