06.06.17

Apple intros ‘HomePod’ wireless speaker – announces release date and pricing

apple homepod voice-activated wireless speaker in white on shelf in home

Apple has finally shed some light on the release of its much-anticipated wireless speaker set to take on Google Home and Amazon Alexa for control the home, ‘HomePod.’

Rumours that Apple would offer a sneak peak of its wireless speaker for the home at the manufacturer’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) proved to be true this week as the company unveiled a speaker with built-in Siri technology, powered by the same processor found in older iPhones.

Like the Google Home and Amazon Echo and Dot, users will be able to control HomePod with voice commands and ask Siri to check the news and weather, provide traffic information and control other devices in the home (such as lighting, shading or activating a scene), as well as send text messages. Commands are picked up by an array of six microphones with echo cancellation allowing HomePod to pick up information when loud music is being played. Users only need to hold an iPhone next to the HomePod for it start playing music.

When away from the home, users will be able to have remote access to the device via the Home app on an iPhone or iPad.

Not shy of making bold claims, Apple claim HomePod is a “breakthrough wireless speaker for the home that delivers amazing audio quality.”  Yet what we know so far may just well make Apple’s offering the most intelligent voice-activated speaker in the marketplace. HomePod is said to use spatial awareness to sense it’s positioning the room (e.g. in a corner, on a table or on a bookshelf) and adjust audio levels accordingly.

Designed to be optimised when used with an Apple Music subscription, Apple says HomePod can “provide deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music.”By saying things “Hey Siri, I like this song,” HomePod will work to learn the musical preferences of a user (including genres, moods and playlists) and music tastes shared across devices.

Siri can also handle advanced searches within the music library, allowing users to ask questions such as “Hey Siri, who’s the drummer in this?” or create a shared Up Next queue with everyone in the home.

HomePod’s audio performance isn’t set to be bad either. The speaker features an Apple-designed upward-facing woofer, paired with the custom A8 chip, enabling bass management through real-time software modelling. It also has custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters, each with its own amplifier, for balanced timbre as well as precise directional control of a multitude of beam shapes and sizes.

Measuring just under 7 inches, the speaker will be available in white and space grey. HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s and later, running iOS 11. Siri waveform appears on the top to indicate when Siri is engaged, with touch controls for navigation.

Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, commented: “Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes.”

“HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

How secure is Apple HomePod?

A key issue for any manufacturer of a voice-activated smart device, Apple states “security and privacy are fundamental” to the design of HomePod, as with other Apple products. After users activate the device and “Hey Siri” is recognised locally on the device information is sent to Apple services where it is encrypted and send using a Siri identifier.

When will Apple release HomePod?

Apple HomePod will be available starting in December, initially in Australia, the UK and the US – potentially to be followed by other countries in 2018. Apple say it will launch at a price of $349 (roughly £270) in the US, with official pricing for Australia and the UK will be released later this year. This makes the HomePod considerably more expensive than the standard cost of an Echo or Google Home Device. It’s clear Apple believe the sleek design it’s become synonymous with and better audio performance (and well, a  product being ‘Apple’) means people will be willing to pay a premium.