There are only some weeks left until the HomePod, the Apple’s first smart speaker hits the stores.
The speaker has been announced this June at the WWDC and will be released in December (Update: Apple announced to delay the launch until early 2018).
So it is a good time to check what we can expect and collect together what we know about the Apple HomePod so far.
Apple HomePod First Overview Video
In the last months, the market of the smart speakers exploded, the Amazon Echo line-up with its Alexa voice assistant got very popular and it has been just extended with several new models.
Google also released two new speakers the Google Home Mini and Max, so now it has Google voice assistant-enabled devices in all sizes.
Microsoft teamed up with the Harman Kardon and they released the Harman Kardon Invoke Cortana-powered, smart speaker.
So the competition is huge and while Apple has had its own voice assistant the Siri on the iPhones, it does not have a smart speaker so far.
Now the Apple HomePod is intended to fill this gap and fight in this crowded market.
Two color options were presented at the WWCD the white and the space gray and there is no information about additional colors so far.
The speaker has a rounded-edge, cylindrical shape, the design is similar to the Mac Pro and to the Sonos One.
It is just under seven inches tall and the outside is completely covered by the speaker grille which was made from a seamless 3D mesh fabric designed for good acoustic performance.
On the top of the speaker, you can find a small LED display.
According to the leaks, it’s size is 272 x 340 pixel and it shows a multicolored waveform when you interact with Siri and it also acts as a virtual button to control the volume level and activate the speaker.
Apart from the LED display on the top, it did not get any buttons or notification LEDs, so the design is clean and very minimalist.
It is not a portable speaker
The HomePod has only a single power cable and it does not feature any input ports, so the wired audio connection is not possible.
As its name implies, it was designed for home use, it does not have a built-in battery so it is not portable.
Reinvent home music
In the announcement event, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing said that their goal was with the new HomePod to reinvent home music.
In his speech, he mentioned the Sonos speakers which provide good wireless sound but lacks in smart speaker functionalities and the Amazon Echo speakers which are smart, voiced control speakers but do not have great sound quality.
By the Apple HomePod, they try to combine these two things together and create a smart speaker with excellent sound quality.
What shades this statement that in the meantime also other manufacturers released their own sound quality focused smart speakers.
For example, the mentioned Sonos has launched its smart speaker the Sonos One, the UE has made its existing Boom series smart and released the UE Megablast and also the Google has extended its Google Home line-up with the Google Home Max.
So the Apple HomePod will not remain without competition in this category.
Although, this is the first smart speaker of the Apple, during the event they emphasized its audio quality more than its smart features.
Apple HomePod Price
This can be because the apple digital assistant, the Siri’s functionalities are still limited compared to the competitors or because the HomePod will come with a quite high $349 price tag.
So the Apple tries to avoid that its speaker is compared with other cheaper smart speakers.
Let’s see how this price compares to the competitors at the date of this article (16.11.2017).
- Google Home Mini - $49
- Amazon Echo Dot – $50
- Amazon Echo - $100
- Google Home - $129
- Amazon Echo Plus - $150
- Harman Kardon Invoke - $200
- Sonos One - $229
- UE Blast - $230
- UE Megablast - $300
- Apple HomePod - $349
- Google Home Max - $399
So currently only the Google Home Max is pricier than the HomePod.
In terms of the hardware, a custom A8 chip has been built into the speaker which Apple claims is the most powerful processor to ever be found in a speaker.
Actually, this is the same chip which powered the iPhone 6 model, so it is really powerful for a smart speaker.
Besides the CPU, a 1GB of RAM module ensures the fast audio processing.
Regarding the audio technology, along the bottom of the speaker, there is an array of 7 beamforming tweeters.
Each tweeter has an own driver and acts as a precision acoustic horn.
This design provides great directional control, so the speaker can focus the sound, from very narrow beams all the way to true, consistent 360° audio.
Above this, there is an upper-facing, custom designed, large 4-inch high-excursion woofer.
It is designed for great sound
The HomePod is continuously monitoring the music and its surrounding and with smart algorithms improves the sound.
It uses automatic bass equalization and dynamically tunes the low frequencies for smooth, distortion‑free sound.
The HomePod is equipped with spatial awareness just like the Google Home Max, which means it analyzes the surrounding and adjusts the sound according to the acoustical conditions.
The speaker steers the music in the optimal direction and creates a spacious sound even if it is placed in a corner or on a shelf.
In addition, according to Apple if you have two HomePods they will automatically work together to create a better sound.
Inside the speaker, there are six microphones placed around the middle, ensuring that it can hear your voice commands over the music.
To make this more precise, the speaker got an advanced multi-channel echo cancellation.
Apple demonstrated the sound quality of the HomePod for a smaller audience of journalists where they compared the speaker with the Amazon Echo and the Sonos Play:3.
According to the participants of the demo, the HomePod sounded better than the competitors, so the sound quality is really promising.
What can I do with the HomePod?
It is not a surprise that the speaker is strongly integrated with the Apple Music, so you can directly play songs from the Apple’s cloud music service on the HomePod.
You can ask the speaker by voice commands to play a specific song or play something from an artist, however, it is able to process even more complex requests like “Who’s the drummer in this?” or “What was the top song on May 5th2016”.
Besides the music playing functionality, the HomePod works as a digital assistant, so it can give you news, weather information or you can set reminders or send text messages via voice commands.
It is also possible to control the HomeKit supported smart home devices with the speaker.
Unfortunately, it seems that other third-party music services like Spotify will not be supported by Siri so you cannot control them by voice.
The HomePod supports AirPlay 2, so can be used as an audio output for any AirPlay 2 enabled devices.
When will the HomePod be released?
The HomePod will be released in December, however, Apple has not provided a specific release date yet (Update: Apple announced to delay the launch until early 2018).
It will be available first in the US, UK, and Australia and in additional countries next year.
The HomePod will cost $350 in the US.
Update: The pre-order starts on January 26 and the shipping on February 9.
- 6.8 inches high (172 mm)
- 5.6 inches wide (142 mm)
- 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg)
- Space Gray
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO
- Multiroom speaker support with AirPlay 2