Competition in the smart speaker market is set to further intensify, following Apple’s announcement that its ‘HomePod’ will land in Australia on February 9th. Priced at A$499, this expensive smart speaker claims to feature advanced voice recognition, directional audio, and hands-free messaging capabilities via WhatsApp.

HomePod pre-orders will open on Apple’s website from Saturday, 27 January AEDT, and will be available to purchase from local Apple stores on February 9th.

Available in either ‘White’ or ‘Space Grey’, the HomePod (A$499) is powered by Apple’s smart assistant, Siri, and will take on the likes of Amazon’s Echo range, and Google’s Home ecosystem.

The news comes after some commentators state that Apple delayed the launch of its smart speaker, because of production issues.

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Performance

Apple’s HomePod claims to deliver “stunning audio quality”, and offers hands-free voice control.

The smart speaker is designed to work with an Apple Music subscription, and claims to learn a users’ tastes and preferences. Apple claims Siri can answer “advanced searches” within Apple’s Music catalog e.g. “Hey Siri, when was this song released?” or “Hey Siri, can you play something totally different?”.

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By calling upon Siri, users can ask the HomePod to perform a variety of tasks including; “set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic, and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit™ smart home accessories”.

Concerning news and current affairs, Apple has linked Siri to a suite of local outlets, including; ABC NEWS, SBS News, SEVEN NEWS and FOX SPORTS News.

A waveform icon appears on the top of the device to indicate that Siri is engaged, which compliments integrated touch controls on the device.

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Audio

Apple states its new HomePod incorporates “advanced audio technologies” such as “beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer, and automatic spatial awareness”.

Philip Schiller, Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing.claims people will ” be blown away” by the device’s audio quality.

The HomePod stands 18 centimetres tall, and incorporates Apple’s A8 chip to deliver a “wide spacious soundstage”.

The device claims to utilise spatial awareness, and by determining its place in the room adjusts its audio for the best sound.

Seven beam forming tweeters offer direction sound, and with six microphones Apple claims the device can hear its “Hey Siri” activation command, even when loud music is playing.

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HomePod Directional Sound

Set Up

Apple has designed the HomePod’s set up to be similar to its wireless earbuds, AirPods. Users simply have to place their iPhone in front of the device to start playing music.

Connectivity

HomeKit support enables Apple to take on the likes of Google and Amazon, offering integration with a suite of other smart devices. For example, users can call upon Siri to turn on the lights, and much more.

SiriKit for HomePod enables the device to support third-party messaging apps. Users can send messages via Whatsapp, or compile to-do lists with Evernote.

Apple has also announced that an upcoming free software update will enable users to play music throughout a house via multiroom audio. Users could ask Siri to play Jazz in the lounge room, or play the same song in each room in perfect sync. Should more than one HomePod device be in the same room, Apple states they can be set up as a stereo pair for further enhanced experience.

The forthcoming HomePod is compatible with the following devices; 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. 

Security

The Californian-based tech giant affirms that “Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of Apple hardware”. Apple states that only after “Hey Siri” is locally recognised by the HomePod, will any information be sent to Apple servers. Such information claims to be “encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier”.

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