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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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Apple’s $349 Premium Siri-Powered Smart Speaker Starts Shipping February 9”

  1. Avatar

    wharrington

    Apple is too late to the game. There will be some die hard apple fans that get this, but its a two horse race- Amazon and Google.

    • Avatar

      will

      In reply to wharrington:

      I don't think Apple is to late to the game. They were late with mobile, and then dominated. Time will tell if this is something they are truly interested in or just a side project.


      I agree that right now on the surface it looks like nothing more than a nice speaker with some Siri stuff. However if they start moving forward faster with Siri and what it can do that could change the playing field. In order to drive mass adoption Apple needs to open up the device for other providers such as Office 365 data, Spotify for music, as well as other services from third parties.

    • Avatar

      jpwalters

      I agree. I don't know how Apple turns this particular play around. I'm not saying they can't. They have pulled off so many victories that surprised the skeptics like me. But not everything they do is. Tim Cook himself said they cracked the code on "TV", and that to me so far has not been demonstrated.

      In reply to wharrington:


      • Avatar

        lvthunder

        In reply to jpwalters:

        Actually it was Steve Jobs who said that about TVs in his book, but too much of that depends on the content providers. The TV app on Apple TV would be a lot better if Netflix would integrate with it, but since they refuse it hurts the whole system.


        Apple Music is the #2 music service as far as I know so that is a lot of potential customers for their speaker.

      • Avatar

        jbuccola

        In reply to jpwalters:

        You’re missing it. They are killing it with the Watch. Sold more Watch units than Echo over the holidays. Once you have the assistant on your wrist, you don’t need it in every room.

    • Avatar

      jbuccola

      In reply to wharrington:

      Apple was late with Watch, too. Now in terms of revenue, Wearables is a one horse race.

      • Avatar

        SvenJ

        In reply to jbuccola: I guess if the parameter is revenue, that's true. I don't have any data but get the impression fitness trackers are selling better than the Apple watch. Maybe not any one particular, but as a genre. Doesn't mean Apple isn't making the bulk of the profit, like they do in phones, without having the bulk of the market.

        I do wonder about the Pod's price. I have a half dozen Echo devices. I don't think I'd have a half dozen $350 devices. Does Apple care? I don't know. I'd guess though Sonos would be the only one who should be worried.


    • Avatar

      lvthunder

      In reply to wharrington:

      The game as you call it has barely started. Of the people I know only 1 has an Echo device and no one I know has a Google Home. I bet when the iPhone came out you were one of those that said they were late to the game. There will be some die hard apple fans that get this, but its a two horse race- Windows Mobile and Blackberry.

    • Avatar

      cddouglas

      In reply to wharrington: you could be right but I'm not sure I would count out Apple yet. They have weaknesses compared to Google and Amazon but also strengths such as a loyal user base. My family uses mostly Apple's ecosystem plus some Microsoft products (Surface, software) and we tried Google Home and the Max but didn't find it compelling since any assistant including Siri, can reliably play a song or station or set a timer, so we returned them. We will purchase and likely keep the Home Pod to replace a very old Sonos. This is in addition to two MacBook Pros, two Apple Watches, three Apple TVs, and two iPhone 10s plus Apple Music subscriptions, photo libraries in Apple Photos, etc.

      I personally love technology and am open to different platforms but once you are mostly "in" on one ecosystem, it becomes much easier and provides more functionality to stay within it IMHO. Many other Apple customers are likely to feel the same and even if Google Assistant is (much) smarter, will still purchase a HomePod over a Google Home because of how their existing services and data "just work" with it.


  2. Avatar

    wolters

    I am interested in seeing the response to this. While I wasn't 100% blown away by the Google Home Max, I can't see replacing that any time soon. I really like the sound.

  3. Avatar

    jchampeau

    ...or if you're a Microsoft platforms user, you're better off with Alexa-powered devices such as the Echo or Sonos One. According to Google's help pages, the Home Max won't integrate with Office 365 which is a dealbreaker for me. Nearly every morning I ask Alexa to tell me what's on my calendar which is in Office 365. If you want your whole-home audio setup to include sound for TV and movies (in other words, a speaker bar), then Sonos is the ideal solution. Paul was right to rail on their app but if your interest is sound quality, Office 365 integration, Alexa-like functionality, and a variety of speaker options to suit all rooms, tastes, and budgets (except the lowest of budgets), Sonos/Alexa is far more compelling than Google's current offerings.

  4. Avatar

    PincasX

    I don’t believe that the statement that you can do everything that Siri can do on the iPhone Mac is correct. Siri is most capable on the phone the Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch all have limited Siri functionality. The HomePod will initial be limited to just English so that right there is pretty sizable limitation against what you can do on the phone. Also, AirPlay 2 support isn’t there yet either.



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