Wednesday, 24 January 2018 05:42

Apple HomePod arrives 9 Feb, pre-order 27 Jan, A$499

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Apple's HomePod delays are finally over, with its "breakthrough wireless speaker" bringing "advanced audio technologies into any home for an incredible music listening experience" arriving on 9 February.

Users in the US, UK and Australia can finally order Apple's Siri-powered HomePod ultra-smart speaker from 27 January, with the official availability date being 9 February.

HomePod will arrive in France and Germany in the Australian autumn, or spring for those in the northern hemisphere, and the rest of the world will have to wait longer, or buy via country where they're available.

Apple proudly boasts that HomePod "delivers stunning audio quality wherever it’s placed – in any room in the house, playing any style of music. Using just your voice, it’s easy and fun to use, and works together with an Apple Music subscription for a breakthrough music experience, providing access to one of the world’s largest cloud music libraries."

The company says that Siri, its intelligent assistant, "now actively used on over half a billion devices, has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes. And with Siri, HomePod can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic, and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories".

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice-president of Worldwide Marketing, said: “HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple. It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer, and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalogue and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use.

“We’re so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments, and businesses to hear it for themselves. We think they will be blown away by the audio quality. 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'.”

So, what are the "audio innovations and advanced technologies" that Apple wants to remind us about?

Well, at less than 18 centimetres tall, Apple says "HomePod represents years of hardware and software innovation:"

  • "Packed with Apple-engineered audio technology, HomePod uses advanced software for real-time acoustic modelling, audio beam-forming, echo cancellation and more, powered by Apple’s A8 chip, delivering a wide, spacious soundstage. Using spatial awareness to sense its location in the room, it automatically adjusts the audio to sound great wherever it is placed."
  • "HomePod features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high frequency acoustics with directional control, and powerful technologies that preserve the richness and intent of original recordings. With an array of six microphones, HomePod can hear “Hey Siri” from across the room, even when loud music is playing."
  • "Setup is as easy and intuitive as setting up AirPods — simply hold an iPhone next to HomePod and it’s ready to start playing music in seconds. The Siri waveform appears on the top to indicate when Siri is engaged, and integrated touch controls also allow easy navigation."

Naturally, there's plenty more:

Apple Music

"HomePod is designed to work with an Apple Music subscription for access to hundreds of playlists, genres, moods, and activities. It also learns preferences and tastes that are shared across devices. Using Siri to deliver deep knowledge of artists, songs, albums and more, HomePod can handle advanced searches within Apple Music’s catalogue, so users can ask questions like, 'Hey Siri, when was this song released?' or 'Hey Siri, can you play something totally different?' to change the mood. Apple Music subscribers can enjoy a catalogue of more than 45 million songs, combined with their entire iTunes® library, for online or offline listening – completely ad-free."

Home Assistant

"HomePod is a convenient way to send messages, set timers and reminders, check the weather and listen to shows on Apple Podcasts. The latest business news, headlines and sports updates stream directly to HomePod from ABC NEWS, SBS News, SEVEN NEWS and FOX SPORTS News. HomePod can also be used as a speakerphone with iPhone for crisp and clear audio quality.

"With support for HomeKit, HomePod can control home accessories or set scenes like, 'Hey Siri, I’m home', to control a number of different accessories at the same time. HomePod can turn on the lights, lock the front door or make other adjustments and serves as the perfect home hub, enabling remote access and automations."

SiriKit for HomePod

"Through SiriKit, HomePod supports third-party messaging apps, so users can ask Siri to send a message to a friend or colleague using apps like WhatsApp. Reminders, note-taking and to-do list apps like Things and Evernote will automatically work with HomePod, so Siri can set reminders, create a new list, mark items as complete, or create and modify notes. For developers interested in adding SiriKit support, more information is available at the Siri developer website."

Multi-Room audio and stereo

"Coming this year in a free software update, users will be able to play music throughout the house with multi-room audio. 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."

Security and privacy

"Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of Apple hardware, software and services. With HomePod, only after 'Hey Siri' is recognised locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier."

Pricing and availability

HomePod is available "at A$499 in white and space grey and is available to order beginning 27 January, from apple.com/au and the Apple Store app."

HomePod will be available in Apple Stores and at select Apple Authorised Resellers, including Best Buy in the US; Argos, Dixons Carphone (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, beginning on 9 February.

HomePod is compatible with 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.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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