Apple has finally announced that they will be launching the HomePod on February 9. You can pre-order the wireless speaker starting on Friday (January 26), but it’s going to cost you $349. The HomePod goes on sale in the US, UK, and Australia. Apple has plans to roll out the speaker to France and Germany this spring. This was a big misstep for Apple, so I’m curious to see what their strategy is for the launch. Originally this was supposed to be available in late 2017, but those dates have come and gone.
So what makes this so great? Part of me wants to say nothing. Why? Because it’s technically just another smart speaker. Amazon and Google both have an entire line of these devices, so thanks for showing up, Apple. I’m not trying to sound harsh, but what do they offer that these other devices don’t? Access to Apple services. If you’re an Apple Music Subscriber, then this is probably the device for you. But is it worth $349?
As far as specs go, it has an A8 chip, a large woofer, and seven tweeters. Apple indicates that the HomePod can deliver a “wide, spacious soundstage”. But so can other smart speakers. Which is why I ask, yet again, what makes this so special? Apple is definitely pushing users who do get a HomePod to make sure they also purchase the $9.99 Apple Music subscription in order to enable Siri to play any one of the 40 million tracks in their catalog. Siri can also ask rich questions related to the music being placed. Without a subscription, HomePod can stream Beats1, play podcasts and any songs previously purchased from iTunes. So is it worth it if the only benefit is access to Apple Music?
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to see this device, but I don’t understand why it took so long to come up with one? I also don’t think that it’s anything special. Users can theoretically buy multiple HomePods to effortlessly set up multi-room music. However, Apple says that multi-room support will be coming in a software update later this year. It will not be available with the initial launch. The ability to use two HomePods as a stereo pair in a single room will also require a future software update.
HomePod is controlled by tapping on the touch surface on the top of the unit, which displays a Siri waveform and volume controls. As well as saying ‘Hey Siri’, users can touch and hold to ask a question. A simple tap pauses the music, whilst a double tap moves to the next track. What’s interesting is that the HomePod will only work with iOS 11.2.5, which literally just came out. Why is this interesting? Well, it seems like Apple hasn’t tested this version of iOS in order to ensure that it will work with HomePod. Given Apple’s track record in this regard, I think they need to work on this a bit more. I mean, we have seen some iOS and macOS releases that ended up not working with certain configurations. This needs to work seamlessly, or people are going to return them.