Apple's HomePod speaker gets February launch date

Apple's HomePod speaker gets February launch date

From the look of it, Apple sees HomePod mainly as a way to extend the reach of its Apple Music service, not Siri.

Apple has explained that HomePod automatically tunes itself for each environment, with an accelerometer that detects when the speaker has been moved and triggers an acoustic scan of the room.

There's a long history of companies snarkily welcoming major new entrants to the space they're known for, famously going back to Apple's "Welcome, IBM". Amazon invented the category in 2015 with its line of Echo speakers, and there are now similar options available from Google and Microsoft.

Reviews have praised the incredible audio quality of the HomePod, but panned its limited Siri integration when compared to the Echo and Google Home.

In addition to several speakers mixed among Apple's other products on tables throughout the store, HomePods have been set up in larger locations next to Apple's HomeKit displays, however, they didn't appear to be connected to the rest of the demo just yet. A better comparison would be the Sonos One home speaker for example - a dedicated music speaker - and HomePod may have an audio edge on that too. This time, Apple's briefings included playing a selection of songs on HomePod and three competing speakers, asking Siri a series of questions it could answer, and in some cases demonstrating multi-HomePod features that were left out of the initial software release.

Select Apple Authorised Resellers, including Best Buy in the US; Argos, Dixons Carphone (Currys PC World), John Lewis, Shop Direct (Very and Littlewoods), EE and Apple Premium Resellers in the United Kingdom; and The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Myer and Telstra in Australia, have also started selling the HomePod locally. Google Home only supports the Google calendar, while the Invoke supports both Google and Microsoft calendars.

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"If you don't like Apple Music, don't buy a HomePod", said Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch.

Note that the $199 Sonos One is able to use Alexa now, is adding Google Assistant support via a software update in the near future, and will have support for streaming music via Apple's upcoming AirPlay 2, as well. If requested, it should also be able to preclude unauthorized sharing of personal information such as one user's messages and calls with people other than that person.

The result is significantly more powerful audio performance from the HomePod compared to its two rivals.

A smarter Siri: A smart speaker is only as smart as its digital assistant.

"Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it", wrote Brian Chen in his review of HomePod for The New York Times. But if you've got a particular playlist in Spotify you want to play on your HomePod, you can play it - you'll just need to do it from your iOS device.

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