Apple’s HomePod, smart speaker/virtual assistant - though Apple calls it simply a "wireless speaker" - will launch in store on 9 February in the UK, US and Australia, and is available to order online in those countries from Friday 26 January. It will go on sale in France and Germany in the spring.
The Siri-equipped speaker can send messages, set timers, play podcasts, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories.
“HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalogue and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use.”
HomePod is designed to work with an Apple Music subscription, and learns preferences and tastes that are shared across devices. It can handle advanced searches within Apple Music’s catalogue, so users can ask questions like, “Hey Siri, when was this song released?” or “Hey Siri, can you play something totally different?” Apple Music subscribers can enjoy a catalogue of more than 45m songs, combined with their iTunes library, for online or offline listening.
With support for HomeKit, HomePod can control hundreds of home accessories or set scenes like, “Hey Siri, I’m home,” to control a number of different accessories at the same time. HomePod can turn on the lights, set the desired temperature or make other adjustments.
Through SiriKit, HomePod supports third-party messaging apps, so users can ask Siri to send a message to a friend or colleague using apps like WhatsApp. Reminders, note-taking and to-do list apps like Things and Evernote will automatically work with HomePod, so Siri can set reminders, create a new list, mark items as complete, or create and modify notes.
Later this year, Apple will release a software update to enable users to play music throughout the house with multi-room audio. If HomePod is in the kitchen, users can ask Siri to play jazz via the dining room’s HomePod, or play the same song in each room in sync.
HomePod is priced at £319 and comes in white and space grey. It’s compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later.