From The Editors Technology

Apple’s “Easier than Easy” HomePod is Finally Available for Pre-Order, Ships Feb. 9

Delayed by a month from its original December launch date, Apple is now all set to ship out its much-touted answer to Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers.

Yes, it’s the seven-inch-tall Apple Home Pod we’re talking about, which the company has made available for pre-order from January 26 and will be shipping out effective February 9th.

According to Apple, the HomePod has the ability to adjust sound distribution according to the layout of the room in relation to wherever it is placed. Needless to say, it responds to voice command.

“Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices, has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes,” says Apple.

“HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple. It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use,” said Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller.

He also said: “We’re so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments and businesses to hear it for themselves. We think they will be blown away by the audio quality. The team has worked to give Siri a deeper knowledge of music so that you can ask to play virtually anything from your personal favorites to the latest chart-topping releases, simply by saying ‘Hey Siri’.”

When Apple announced its smartspeaker in June last year, it said that two or more HomePods could be used simultaneously in homes and explained two scenarios.

Here they are:

Scenario One: Use two HomePods in the same room and allow them to configure themselves into a left and a right speaker for a quality stereo effect

Scenario Two: Use multiple speakers in different rooms of your home. The speakers will synch up with each other to play the same music wherever they are placed.

However, these two features are not available as of now but will be made available as a software update sometime later this year.

So, if you have already placed your order for more than one HomePod, you will have to wait for the update before you can pair or synch your speakers. Meanwhile, you can use them as individual devices.

Also, the HomePod will, most likely, not support third-party music streaming, restricting you to just Apple Music. That said, Apple claims that Apple Music will allow you “access to virtually all the world’s songs, it’s like having your very own musicologist who learns and plays what you like, and helps you discover music you love.”

While the Siri-enabled device is pretty adept at streaming music, you can ask it to perform a number of other tasks as well, including sending messages, reading out the news, checking sports, weather and traffic updates, as well as allowing you to control your smarthome devices.

However, experts say that Siri has its limitations when it comes to the range of tasks it can execute and is not in the same league as Alexa.

In all probability, Apple is aware of this reality and, perhaps, that’s the reason why the company is marketing the device primarily as an audio device, harping more about its sound and music streaming capabilities than anything else – as is evident from Schiller’s statement above.

What’s impressive about the HomePod, though, is the A8 Fusion Chip, the same one that iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are equipped with, which gives it a slight edge over its competition. Slight because the difference comes at a price!

Apple’s foray into the world of smart speakers may have ruffled a few Amazon and Google feathers, but working against the HomePod is its $349 price tag and the cult status that Echo enjoys.

Add to that the Siri-enabled HomePod’s inability to stream third-party music like Spotify, for instance, plus its task limitations, and you don’t see much cause for concern for Google or Amazon, or even Sonos One, for now.

Sonos One, by the way, not only offers two speakers for the price of the single-speaker HomePod at $349 but is also Alexa-enabled, with Google Assistant compatibility expected soon.

Just for comparison, the much larger and powerful Google Home Max sells for $399 while the Google Home costs $129. Amazon Echo is available for $99.99.

And, here’s another indicator that it may not be the hot cake, as Apple may have been anticipating:

In the past, we have seen a number of iPhones selling out within a matter of minutes after they became available for pre-order, but not so with the HomePod, with both versions of the color still available.

This is how Apple describes some of the specs and features of the HomePod

  • Beautiful design with a purpose
  • Wrapped in a seamless mesh fabric designed for both aesthetic and acoustic performance – available in white and space gray
  • It’s easier than easy. It’s automatic. Equipped with spatial awareness, HomePod automatically adjusts to give you optimal sound — wherever it’s placed
  • Senses the room and tunes the music. All by itself
  • Seven tweeters create amazing sound from every angle
  • High-excursion woofer
  • Six-microphone array
  • Apple-designedA8 chip – the biggest brain ever in a speaker
  • Deep bass – engineered to lower the boom
  • Create stereo sound with a second HomePod (feature coming later this year)
  • Add HomePod to more rooms (feature coming later this year)
  • HomePod is built to bring out the best in Apple Music. With the intelligence of Siri and access to virtually all the world’s songs
  • Over 45 million songs in your home
  • Learns what you love. And what you don’t

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