Update: November 17, 2017: If you were planning on gifting Apple's first smart speaker, HomePod, this holiday season, you'll have to leave an IOU under the tree. Although HomePod was scheduled for a December release, Apple issued a statement today, saying the speaker won't arrive until early next year:
“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.”
This piece was originally published on June 5, 2017.
When it comes to product announcements, Apple tends to be a stickler for routine: The tech giant usually gives a look at the upcoming version of iOS during an industry event every June, but unveils new iPhones at a big September event. But this year, things are a bit different.
At today’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, CA, Apple broke with convention and unveiled new devices in addition to its sneak peek at iOS 11. Settle down, iPhone lovers — these, unfortunately, aren’t new iPhones. However, one reveal is especially exciting, as it delves into a category where Apple (surprisingly) hasn’t gone before: A Siri-powered speaker à la Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, referred to the new product as a "breakthrough home speaker." Although both high-quality speakers (hey, Sonos) and smart speakers (lookin' at you Echo) already exist, Schiller said that no smart home speaker "has nailed it yet." The HomePod, as Apple is calling its new speaker in a throwback to the good ol' iPod days, is apparently that. The merger of high quality sound and smart assistant in one device is meant to justify the high price tag: At $349, HomePod will be pricier than the Sonos PLAY:1 ($199), Google Home ($109), and Amazon Echo ($179.99).
HomePod looks similar in appearance to the popular Sonos PLAY:1. It's small at just under seven inches tall, round, and comes in two colors (white and space gray). Anyone with an Apple Music subscription can use the speaker to access their playlists, as well as over 40 million songs. If you want to try something new, just tell Siri what you're in the mood for or ask about a new band. According to Apple, she can hear you even when the bass is thumping. Like the Echo's Alexa, Siri will also be able to provide answers to non-music questions, such as those about the news or nearby traffic.
HomePod won't be available until December, so we'll have to wait until closer to then to see if it lives up to its "breakthrough" claims.
The other two devices that Apple unveiled aren't as surprising, but still nice additions to its existing product lineup: The iMac Pro (scheduled for a December release) is a workstation that will appeal to designers, and the new iPad Pro in 10.5 and 12.9-inch models (out this fall) is a far more powerful tablet than its predecessors.
One announcement is following the annual Apple ritual: Fans will have to hang tight until later this year for a look at the new iPhones.