Apple used its keynote at WWDC in June 2017 to announce a range of updates and evolutions, but the most exciting product to be unveiled at the time was the HomePod.
Apple HomePod sees Apple looking to change how you listen to music, again, jumping on the iPod and AirPod nomenclature to come up with HomePod, a home speaker.
But this isn't just any home speaker. This is an Apple home speaker. Here's everything you need to know about it.
Apple HomePod design
- Almost 7-inch tall cylindrical design
- Acoustic mesh sides
- Available in space grey or white
The Apple HomePod adopts a cylindrical design standing "just under" 7-inches tall and wrapped in mesh. It looks a little like the 2013 Apple Mac Pro converted into a speaker with a similar shape design; it's also looks a bit like the UE Wonderboom but larger.
As this is an Apple product, it's perhaps no surprise that 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 in the top, but we're yet to see this in action.
As with all Apple products, you're looking a clear and uncluttered design, very minimal in its presentation.
Apple HomePod: The audio hardware
- 4-inch central woofer
- 7 beam-forming tweeters
- Room-sensing technology
- Apple A8 chip
Apple hasn't said a huge amount about the audio capabilities of the HomePod, but it has revealed that there's a central 4-inch woofer that's upward firing in the centre of the device. This provides the depth to the music, with Apple saying that it uses real-time software modelling to ensure that distortion is minimalised, 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 an uncommon arrangement 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 A8 chip, the same as you'll find in a number of Apple devices. This provides the processing power, although we're sure that most of that will be aimed at connectivity and powering the Siri features that it offers.
There are 6 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.
Apple HomePod: Sound quality
Now we come to the crunch and also the part where there's very little information. Naturally, Apple has said that it's changing the way that you listen to music, saying that this is a smart speaker, like the Amazon Echo, as well as a quality connected speaker, like you'll get from Sonos.
In terms of audio performance, comparing it to Sonos sets the bar fairly high, as Sonos has a great range of devices on offer. We suspect that it's going to be a little better than the Beats Pill…
We will, of course, update as soon as we've had the chance to properly listen to the HomePod, but priced as it is against the competition, it's going to need to deliver on the audio front.
Apple also hasn't mentioned anything about audio format support - other than Apple Music.
Apple HomePod: Connectivity
- HomeKit compatible
- 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 then it's all encrypted. Security is a big concern in smart home devices.
The speaker will connect to the internet using your Wi-Fi network, streaming music from Apple Music or playing Beats 1. Apple hasn't detailed what other services that it will work with, so we've no idea if it will natively play from services like Deezer or Spotify.
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. Apple hasn't confirmed other avenues of connection, but we'd imagine that Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 are part of the package - the inclusion of AirPlay would mean a wide range of services are supported direct from your iPhone or iPad and Apple has said that you'll be able to play your own music, we're just not sure how, yet.
Apple has also confirmed that you'll be able to pair speakers so that they sync up to make the music even better. Apple also detailed that AirPlay 2, a new feature of iOS 11, will give you multiroom audio control, so we imagine that HomePod will fit right into that scenario, like Sonos would.
Apple HomePod: Siri and features
- HomeKit controller
Being a HomeKit device means that the Apple HomePod 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 sits at the heart of this experience and although Apple hasn't yet said much about what Siri will do on HomePod - aside from controlling music, telling you detail about tracks and answering other questions - but we'd assume that Siri will have the power to deliver plenty of detail from your Appleverse, most likely delivering reminders and calendar details, placing calls and more.
We're sure we'll learn more about exactly what HomePod will be able to do shortly, so we'll update when we do.
Apple HomePod price and release date
- Price: $349 in US, expected to be £349 in the UK
- Availability: UK, US, Australia
- Release date: "Early 2018"
The Apple HomePod speaker was meant to be released in December 2017 but in November, Apple issued a statement to say that would no longer be the case and it would instead launch in "early 2018".
"We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018," said Apple's November statement.
It's now believed the smart speaker will launch in the next four to six weeks, according to analytics company GBH Insights.
It is expected to be priced at £349 in the UK, and confirmed to be priced at $349 in the US. Other regional prices have yet to be announced.