The Apple HomePod is now available in the UK, US and Australia. But should you opt for the Siri-powered speaker over one of the HomePod alternatives

Apple HomePod sees Apple looking to change how you listen to music (again) jumping on the iPod nomenclature to come up with the HomePod name. 

Here's everything you need to know about HomePod.

And don't forget to check out our HomePod review - the definitive verdict on Apple's new smart speaker.

  • Price: £319 in the UK, $349 in US
  • Availability: UK, US, Australia to begin with

After a two month delay, HomePod is available in stores and to order online in the US, UK and Australia. 

HomePod is available for £319 or $349 in the US, UK and Australia from the Apple Store, select Apple Authorised Resellers, including Best Buy in the US; Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis, Shop Direct (Very and Littlewoods), EE and Apple Premium Resellers in the UK; and The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Myer and Telstra in Australia.

HomePod will arrive in France and Germany this spring. 

  • Almost 7-inch tall cylindrical design
  • Acoustic mesh sides
  • Available in space grey or white

The Apple HomePod adopts a cylindrical design standing 6.8-inches tall (17.2cm) and wrapped in mesh. It looks a little like the last Apple Mac Pro converted into a speaker with a similar shape design; it also looks a bit like the UE Wonderboom but larger. It weighs in at 2.5kg or 5.5 pounds. 

As we said earlier, it's available in space grey or white colours.

The flattened top is where the Siri wave appears when you say Hey Siri, offering a similar sort of effect as you get from existing smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. It's designed to give you a visual clue that it's working. There are also touch controls on top, which you can use as follows: 

  • Tap or hold + or – for volume up/down
  • Touch and hold for Siri
  • Tap to play/pause music or Siri
  • Double-tap to skip
  • Triple-tap to skip back

As with all Apple products, you're looking a clear and uncluttered design, very minimal in its presentation.

In terms of what the HomePod requires, you'll need to have an 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. And yes, it will work with AirPlay on a Mac or Apple TV, too. 

  • 4-inch central woofer
  • 7 beam-forming tweeters
  • Room-sensing technology
  • Apple A8 chip

In terms of audio quality, there's a central 4-inch high-excursion woofer that's upward firing in the centre of the device. This should provide depth to the music, with

Apple saying that it uses real-time software modelling to ensure that any distortion is minimalised (there's an internal mic for this purpose), so you should be able to turn it up loud without it losing quality. 

There are seven beam-forming tweeters wrapped around the core of the HomePod, providing 360-degree sound. This isn't uncommon as there are a number of speakers that use this sort of arrangement to offer 360-degree sound. 

Apple has said that HomePod will adapt to the room, something we've seen from companies like Sonos, meaning that if you place it in a corner, the sound will adapt so that you get the most from it. 

Powering the speaker is the Apple A8 chip, the same as you'll find in a number of Apple devices. 

There are seven microphones on board so that the speaker can listen to you; again, this isn't uncommon, as the existing devices on the market do the same thing, providing plenty of mics to hear what you're saying and listen to your commands.

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  • HomeKit compatible
  • Wi-Fi
  • Instant pairing
  • Stereo pairing

The Apple HomePod is both a music speaker and a home controlling hub, as it is HomeKit compatible.

Apple is pushing the security of HomeKit with the HomePod, saying that nothing is sent to Apple until you say "Hey Siri", and even then it's all encrypted. 

The speaker will connect to the internet using your Wi-Fi network, streaming music from Apple Music, iTunes purchases or playing Beats 1 radio. You can also listen to podcasts via Apple's own app. You can ask for all of these things via Siri on the HomePod. 

There's no support for other radio services like TuneIn, so that means no BBC stations. 

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AirPlay is supported, of course, so you can play music or other audio from iPhone, iPad, Macs and Apple TV. So, for example, you will be able to AirPlay non-Apple audio like Spotify or BBC Radio from your phone, but you won't be able to ask Siri for this stuff on the HomePod. 

You will be able to pair with a phone instantly, so we guess it uses the same W1 chip as some of the recent Beats headphones and the Apple AirPods (mind you, this isn't detailed in the specs) but it does feature Bluetooth 5.0 for the purpose of pairing - you can't Bluetooth audio to the speaker from other devices unfortunately. This is a major drawback.

Apple has also confirmed that you'll be able to pair speakers so that they sync up to make the music even better.

  • Multiroom support delayed until later in 2018

Apple previously detailed that AirPlay 2, a new feature of iOS 11 and incorporated into HomePod will give you multiroom audio control, like Sonos does. 

However, Apple has said this is now coming to HomePod later on - could this have been the reason for the delay to the HomePod in the first place? Which then Apple found it couldn't quickly fix? 

In its press release, Apple said multiroom functionality will come "this year in a free software update.... If HomePod is in the kitchen, users can ask Siri to play jazz in the dining room, or play the same song in each room — perfectly in sync.

"If there's more than one HomePod set up in the same room, the speakers can be set up as a stereo pair for an even more immersive sound experience."

  • HomeKit controller
  • SiriKit enables third-party app control

HomePod can handle advanced searches within Apple Music’s catalogue, so you can ask questions like, “Hey Siri, when was this song released?” or “Hey Siri, can you play something totally different?”.

As we mentioned, HomePod being a HomeKit device means that it can fit into the same roles as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, controlling other HomeKit devices.

This is where things get a little more interesting, as there are a wide range of HomeKit devices - from Tado heating to Hue lighting and you should be able to speak to control all these things - it looks like Apple is catching up in the smart home arena.

Siri on HomePod can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports news, traffic and weather as well as boasting the aforementioned HomeKit and Apple Music support.

The latest business news, headlines and sports are provided by content partners in each country, just as with Amazon Echo. In the UK, Apple has signed deals with the BBC, Sky News and LBC.

HomePod can also be used as a speakerphone with iPhone, too.

Apple's SiriKit also enables third-party app support on HomePod, just as on the iPhone. So apps like WhatsApp and Evernote will automatically work with HomePod.

Now why not check out Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo: What's the difference?

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