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article imageApple delays its HomePod smart speaker until after the holidays

By James Walker     Nov 20, 2017 in Technology
Apple's delaying the launch of its Amazon Echo-rivalling smart speaker. The HomePod had been due to hit the shelves in December but has now been postponed until "early 2018." The delay for the "breakthrough" product could extend Amazon's market lead.
The HomePod was announced back in June as a fully-featured rival to Amazon's Alexa range and the Google Home. It was intended to launch before the end of the year, allowing consumers to start building an Apple-powered smart home during the holidays.
In media statements late last week, the company announced it needs "a little more time" to finish the device, suggesting underlying technical problems have created unforeseen issues. Although no detailed reasoning has been given, it's likely the issues are related to the speaker's sound quality or voice recognition capabilities.
"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," the company commented to CNBC. "We'll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018."
Apple HomePod
Apple HomePod
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The setback could be significant for Apple's presence in the smart home market. Competition is rapidly increasing as more manufacturers and digital assistant ecosystems get involved. Amazon rolled out its new range of Echo speakers only a month ago, giving consumers additional options for holiday shopping.
The HomePod offers similar functionality to the Echo and Google's Home. It's meant to act as the focal point of a smart home ecosystem, networking services and devices together through Siri and HomeKit. The speaker's far-field voice recognition lets you talk to Siri to control smart home products, check the news or listen to music.
Apple's also focusing on offering improved sound quality, addressing one of the regularly cited shortcomings of its competition. The HomePod features an Apple-designed subwoofer and a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters. The device continually monitors its location to optimise sound quality, adjusting the timbre if it's moved next to a wall or a corner of a room.
Although the delay will see Apple lose out on the important holiday sales window, the actual impact on shipments is expected to be relatively low. Analyst Brian White of Drexel Hamilton told CNBC only 1 million units were ever expected to be sold this year as general interest in smart home gadgets remains low. Even once HomePod gets off the ground, Apple's still going to have to convince the masses they really need a $349 smart speaker hub.
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