Apple’s long-awaited smart speaker is finally hitting shelves.
The HomePod will be available February 9, and goes on pre-order this Friday, Apple announced on Tuesday. The release dates apply to the U.S., U.K. and Australia, while the speaker will be sold in France and Germany, two of Siri’s primary markets, later this spring.
Apple’s HomePod was unveiled last year and is widely seen as Siri’s answer to Amazon‘s Alexa, although Apple has emphasized the high-fidelity music capabilities of the speaker.
After Alexa dominated the holiday season, there will be extra pressure on Apple. Although Amazon rarely discloses exact sales, the e-commerce company has said that its Echoes were among the top-selling products across any category during the holidays.
While Apple’s HomeKit will be an important addition to the smart home market, that’s not all it has to gain.
The $349 7-inch tall speaker will also promote some of Apple’s most important new initiatives. For one, it will be a conduit for Apple Music, part of Apple’s fast-growing and ambitious services division. Apple is expected to face off against Spotify in the public markets this year, and will have to prove it still has the muscle that launched the iPod to popularity.
The speaker also shows off Apple’s cross-device compatibility with accessories like iPhones and AirPods, a major selling point of its sticky ecosystem. Plus, the artificial intelligence in the device will reflect on Apple’s in-house chip business. The HomePod has an A8 chip.
Apple also played up its privacy features, as the U.S. technology sector faces increased scrutiny over consumer protection.
“[O]nly 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,” Apple said in its announcement.
Source: Tech CNBC
Apple's HomePod will be available to order Friday and will arrive February 9