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article imageApple to launch HomePod smart speaker on February 9

By James Walker     Jan 23, 2018 in Technology
Apple has announced it will start shipping its delayed HomePod smart speaker early next month. The company said the device is the product of "years" of innovation, culminating in a "magical" digital assistance experience. Preorders will open on Friday.
Advanced audio
The HomePod was unveiled last summer as Apple's answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple then postponed the HomePod's launch, saying it needed more time to finalise the technology. In a news post today, the company announced it's now ready to start shipping the device to consumers.
The HomePod stands around 7 inches tall and houses seven beam-forming sound tweeters and an Apple-designed woofer. A custom array of six microphones provides far-field Siri voice recognition capabilities. The package is powered by Apple's A8 chip, expanded with audio software features including real-time acoustic modelling and echo cancellation.
Apple HomePod
Apple HomePod
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The hardware allows HomePod to sense its location in a room and adjust its sound to match. If you place the device near a wall, it will tune its output so the sound is still directed towards the listener. Apple's keen for the HomePod to be seen as a smart speaker that doesn’t sacrifice on audio quality, addressing one of the most common criticisms of Amazon's Echo family.
"We're so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments and businesses to hear it for themselves," said Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Paul Schiller. "We think they will be blown away by the audio quality."
Siri assistance
The HomePod is also Apple's first device built around its Siri digital assistant. The device's microphone array lets you talk to Siri from anywhere in a room, allowing you to hear messages read aloud or check the news without picking up your phone. Siri can control connected appliances too, making the HomePod into the same kind of smart home hub as the Echo and Google Home.
HomePod connects to Apple's HomeKit ecosystem to interact with "hundreds" of smart home accessories. Using voice commands, you could turn on the lights, close the curtains or adjust a connected thermostat. The smart speaker can act as an iPhone accessory too, allowing you to listen to calls on speakerphone with enhanced audio quality.
Apple HomePod
Apple HomePod
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With digital assistance set to be one of the biggest tech topics this year, the launch of HomePod represents Apple's commitment to its development. Alexa and Google Assistant are now seen to have a considerable lead over Siri, particularly in the context of the home. The HomePod is Apple's attempt to put Siri at the centre of people's lives, making the assistant available in their most personal space.
HomePod will launch in the U.S., U.K. and Australia on February 9 priced at $349. Two colour options will be available, white and space gray. Preorders will open this Friday, January 26 at the Apple Store and select retailers. Apple said the device will expand to more regions in the spring, starting with France and Germany.
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