Apple will join the smart speaker fray on February 9 with HomePod, a $349 answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The company will start taking pre-orders on January 29 in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, and the speaker will arrive in France and Germany this spring.
Similar to other smart speakers, the HomePod will use voice controls–in this case via Siri–to play music, control smart home devices, send messages, and provide information. Although HomePod is much pricier than speakers from Amazon and Google–both of which start at $50 and often sell at a discount–Apple is hoping to stand out on the strength of its sound quality, and on Siri’s deep ties to Apple Music. (To that end, the HomePod won’t let users access third-party music services such as Spotify and Pandora with voice commands.)
HomePod was supposed to launch in December, but Apple decided to delay the product, and is apparently still working on some key features. A software update later this year will add multi-room audio and support for synchronized stereo playback between two HomePod speakers. Apple also hasn’t confirmed rumors of support for multiple user accounts, which Amazon and Google both added to their speakers last year.JN