Apple’s Smart Speaker HomePod Pre-orders Start This Friday

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Apple has long been facing criticism for delaying the much anticipated HomePod smart speaker. Though it has finally revealed a release date for the smart speaker now, it also sort of informed that the multi-room audio and stereo features will not be available at launch. The Apple HomePod will be released on Feb. 9, while preorders will start this Friday, Jan. 26.

Apple HomePod finally coming

The Apple HomePod was first announced at the WWDC 2017. Initially, the smart speaker was scheduled to hit the store shelves in December to benefit from the Holiday season. However, in November the company revealed that the release would be pushed back to early 2018. The company gave no clear reason for the delay, other than saying the usual, that it needs more time “before it’s ready for our customers.”

Now, the speaker is finally coming. Apple has confirmed that the HomePod is coming on Feb. 9 to the U.S., the UK and Australia. In Germany and France, the HomePod will arrive sometime this spring.

“We’re so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments and businesses to hear it for themselves. We think they will be blown away by the audio quality,” Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Philip Schiller, said in a blog post.

Despite the delay, it appears that no changes have been made to the HomePod. The smart speaker appears to be the same as was revealed at WWDC in June, notes The Verge. Apple’s focus is more on music and sound quality than the speaker’s intelligence. Further, though the HomePod goes on preorder later this week, many details about the product are not clear.  The HomePod is designed to work with Apple Music first, but it is not clear how exactly it will work with say, Spotify.

Multi-Room audio and stereo support delayed

Along with announcing the release date, Apple has revealed that its smart speaker will get multi-room audio support via a free update scheduled for later this year. The new feature would allow users to play music on multiple HomePods throughout the house, or use them as stereo speakers.

“Coming this year in a free software update, users will be able to play music throughout the house with multi-room audio,” the iPhone maker said.

Talking of Siri, Apple notes that its smart speaker would support third-party messaging apps with the help of the SiriKit. This will allow users to send messages to friends using apps like WhatsApp. Further, the HomePod also supports note-taking and to-do list apps like Things and Evernote. So, Siri will be able to mark items as complete, set reminders, create or edit notes, or create a new list.

HomePod – is it better than rivals?

At $349, Apple’s product is relatively more expensive than existing products from rivals Amazon and Google. But, like its other products, Apple is positioning the speaker as a premium acoustic speaker capable of offering better sound than Google Home and Amazon Echo. Apple’s HomePod is seen as more of a competitor to Sonos’ high-end wireless speakers.

According to Apple’s website, the HomePod is integrated with “advanced software” to give high-fidelity and immersive sound “throughout the room, no matter where it’s placed.” Apple’s HomePod is also capable of responding to taps, something similar to AirPods. Basically, it supports three tap gestures – double-tap for next track, triple-tap for previous track and single tap for play/pause.

Previously, CEO Tim Cook also made similar comments while explaining why he feels the HomePod can survive in the smart speaker market.

Speaking at WWDC last year, Cook said “I think when people listen to it, they are going to be shocked over the quality of the sound, and of course it does a lot of other things.”

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