Apple (finally) launches HomePod speaker ’“ announces pre-order date

After delaying its much-anticipated release, Apple is seemingly ready to launch its rival to Amazon Echo & Google Home offerings, the HomePod.

Originally slated for a December release in time for the Christmas period, after being announced in June, Apple pushed back the release of the smart speaker incorporating Apple’s Siri home assistant when the product wasn’t ready due to a few hardware and software integration niggles.

However pre-orders will be taken for the Apple HomePod from this Friday (26 January) or Saturday (27 January) for those readers in Australia, ahead of a February 9 international release spanning the US, UK and Australia.

According the Tapei Times, one of the assemblers of the HomePod, Inventec, has begun sending the speaker to the US – with the initial shipment coming to around 1 million units, and 10 to 12 million units in total.

Apple officially revealed on Tuesday that the HomePod will support messaging apps including WhatsApp, allowing users can ask Siri to send a message to a friend. They will additionally be able to make include reminders and access note-taking and to-do list apps like Evernote via SiriKit. Wider home automation through lighting, thermostats and other products will furthermore be possible using Apple HomeKit – although the list currently falls short of competing with the vast number of integrations available through Alexa and Google Assistant.

Although it’s being launched now, would-be owners aren’t exactly receiving the finished product if they buy a HomePod early next month as the ability to connect two or more speakers isn’t going to be available until later in 2018, in addition to being able to pair two HomePods in the same room for stereo sound.

Yet for those looking for added security over other offerings on the market, Apple does offer a privacy advantage over its rivals – with conversations encrypted to a higher degree than Alexa and Google.

With this launch coming post-CES, and LG’s ThinQ Speaker now being unveiled to the world (packing in Google Assistant and Meridian knowhow) the Apple HomePod has some catching up to do. Of course, there has also been a recent onslaught of smaller additions to the Amazon and Google line-up, which have been extremely successful as entry-level smart home product. But naturally, the manufacturer is confident its audio performance and customary, slick design will see it compete in an ever-growing market.

Owning the HomePod will come at a higher price, however, with it priced at US$349, £319 or AU$499 – available in white or space grey.

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