Apple HomePod, the company’s first smart speaker, will go on sale on 9 February in the US, UK and Australia, with pre-orders kicking off online this Friday (26 January).
The company announced the dates today, having delayed the device’s planned launch in December 2017. It will compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home among other smart speakers already available. Apple’s device will also launch in France and Germany in the spring.
In November, Apple said that “we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers” when announcing the HomePod delay. Some of that time appears to have been spent focusing on the device’s music features.
“The team has worked to give Siri a deeper knowledge of music so that you can ask to play virtually anything from your personal favourites to the latest chart-topping releases, simply by saying ‘Hey Siri.’,” said SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller in a statement today.
The language being used around HomePod is a long way away from the famous “It just works” rhetoric about past products. Schiller’s statement included “beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness” among the device’s highlights.
The smart speakers market is growing apace, even before Apple’s entry. Futuresource estimates that 25m of these devices shipped in 2017 – with 95% of them in the US and UK, which adds some context to Apple’s launch-markets strategy.
Meanwhile, a study commissioned by NPR from Edison Research recently claimed that one in six Americans now own a smart speaker – around 39 million people in that country alone.