Apple’s new HomePod speaker is their answer to the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Sonos

Apple has announced their competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, and it’s called the HomePod. It’s a round speaker covered in either a white or space grey fabric mesh. It’s being touted primarily as a premium music device, although it does have Siri built-in to compete with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistant.

The Apple HomePod contains an array of seven tweeters along the bottom, as well as a four-inch upward-facing subwoofer. It has Apple’s A8 processor on board, which it uses, in combination with its six microphones, to tune the sound to the space it’s in using “spatial awareness.”

You can talk to Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, through the speaker by saying “Hey Siri” followed by your command. Apple is touting the speaker’s privacy aspects since it does not send your voice recordings to their servers until after you say “Hey Siri,” although this is pretty much exactly how Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistants work as well, so I don’t see how this promotes privacy anymore than the top competing products in this category, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

The HomePod speaker also doubles as an Apple HomeKit hub, so it can be used to relay commands from iPhones and iPads to HomeKit compatible smart home devices while you’re away from home. The top of the device lights up with a set of lights, similar to Siri’s waveform, when you speak to it. There is also a touch interface, although it’s not a touchscreen, but not much else about this is known at this time because the units in the demo area at WWDC are not functional.

The Apple HomePod will cost $349 when it’s released in December in the US, UK, and Australia. It will be available in other countries next year.

  1. Jay says:

    Regarding privacy, the Apple website states “With HomePod, only after “Hey Siri” is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.” I’m not sure if encryption and using an anonymous identifier are also features of Alexa and Google Home.

    • AFTVnews says:

      I don’t know about Google, but Amazon does encrypt Alexa communication. As for an “anonymous identifier,” that sounds like an oxymoron to me. I assume they just mean they use a session ID that only they can link to the individual, which is of course how Amazon and Google do it as well.

    • Reflex says:

      This is exactly the same as how the Echo works. I can’t speak to the Google Home, but it is likely also the same, and I know Cortana works this way as well.

      The real issue is what is done with the collected data afterwards. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are not marketers like Google, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the data is used very differently.

  2. Ray says:

    I’ve been a self-professed Apple Fanboy for years, but since Steve’s demise, in my mind Apple’s luster has been progressively fading. This HomePod is just another step in that slow march to mediocrity. It’s ugly, ridiculously expensive, comes off as a “Me Too!” instead of an innovative product and won’t hit the shelves for another six months. Even the name is weak. “HomePod.” Really?

    I’m not usually an Apple Basher, but I think Apple has once again missed the mark. I don’t want an expensive speaker, I want the technical ability of what’s basically an Echo Dot but linked to my Apple account. I want to be able to say, “Hey Siri, play my vacation playlist” and have my extensive music collection play on whatever speaker I choose. I want to add that functionality to my existing Apple infrastructure. I do not want to buy another overpriced speaker for my kitchen counter.

    Of course, it’s possible Apple has created an amazing piece of acoustic gear, and the sound quality will be so amazing that I’ll want to plunk down more than twice what the Amazon Echo costs. But that remains to be heard, and at least for now, it would seem Apple’s got another yawn on its hands.

    • Steve says:

      Well said! Apple used to be come out with the new products and everyone else tried to copy now it’s the other way around. They are “me too” on all their products now. Even the upcoming IPhone edition they’re copying Samsung with edge to edge display. Apple has become boring now and let’s everyone else be the innovators.

    • Don Black says:

      @Ray, I agree I was always a apple guy, pratically all my house was apple products until the fire tv came out. I have the apple tv 4, and some macs and ipads, but Amazon is stealing the show with asthetics, creativity, and superb AI functionality. I have been programming alexa skills with my echo, echo dot and I plan to get the new echo show. I have a big home automation project going on and alexa is at the forefront of that. Lights, speakers, reciprocals, Home theater, and more. I have never seen a more fluid and functional eco system that rivals apple all the way.

  3. oppman29 says:

    if Apple any sense of marketing they would had put the name BEAT by Dre somewhere in the name and people wouldnt complain about the price..

    • derrick says:

      Honestly, Beats were cool because of Dre. Once they became Apple they are basically corporate and boring. Notice most of the clever marketing and celeb endorsing cool commercials are gone. No more post on instagram of the best athletes wearing the gear.

  4. howesoft says:

    Set aside the design/performance, as we do not know too much about that yet. The price is like many Apple products, a bit silly when compared to the competition. The average UK salary is just over £26k. That is a take home salary of about £444 a week (after tax and NI). Many electronic product manufacturers often ignore exchange rates and alter the price by just swapping a dollar sign for a pound sign. That would make for a very expensive speaker for the average consumer, especially when I paid £99 for my Echo at launch. There still seems to be a large number of Apple fans who will pay whatever they ask, but how sustainable is that going to be into the future when there is such a significant price differential.

  5. grdoid666 says:

    this has to be the most un apple device aesthetically that i have ever seen
    never would have guessed this was an apple product if shown a picture of it
    without knowing ,alos i wonder how big this thing is it looks pretty big

    the design seems questionable to me , subwoofer at the top facing up?
    seems to defy everything we know about speaker design

    of course the price is the real killer , i would say that and the fact hey waited so long to get into the game is what will make this thing a DOA product

  6. derrick says:

    price makes it a nonstarter. Not even close.

  7. pmcd says:

    Apple has never had much luck with speakers, even when Steve Jobs was there. I assume they are trying to compete with Sonos and not Amazon. $350 is not overpriced assuming we are talking high end audio. Will have to wait and see… I don’t think the lack of imagination is an Apple only issue. The whole TV, audio, communications, etc… arena seems to be in a holding pattern.

  8. Ray says:

    IMO, what Apple really should have done was, instead competing with Bose with a high-end speaker, compete directly with Amazon with an always-listening, voice-controlled Siri platform that could be built into the Apple TV, its computers and tablets, its watch, etc. A natural extension to that would be tying in their HomeKit technology to control everything from thermostats to smart lights. In other words, have Siri and Alexa go head to head. Why they chose to present this high-end voice-controlled speaker instead is completely beyond me.

    • Reflex says:

      To be fair, there is no competition at the high end with Bose. And by that I mean that Bose may be priced high end, but its not a high end audio experience. Sonos is more of a competitor to this device, Bose is only competitive on price.

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