Apple HomePod has finally got an official release data – February 9 – and while Apple fans would be thrilled at the announcement, critics and business analysts question whether Apple has taken its sweet time entering into the niche and if HomePod will be able to withstand competition from Google and Amazon.
Apple is releasing its smart speaker nearly three years after the Amazon Echo and after the Google Home, which launched in 2016. Apple also originally scheduled the HomePod to hit the market in December 2017 before the critical holiday shopping season. But the device was delayed until early 2018, past the time for avid shopping and gift giving.
Apple HomePod is again a pricey gadget – like all Apple devices – and in comparison to Amazon Echo it is priced at three times as much. By setting the price of the HomePod at $350, Apple appears to be hoping consumers will see it as a premium device. The HomePod also is far more expensive than Amazon’s highest-end Echo speaker, the $150 Echo Plus, which is more focused on smart home setup than audio. Amazon’s main Echo device costs $100.
The HomePod is probably more comparable to the $400 Google Home Max, which is Google’s most expensive smart speaker, than cheaper versions that go for $130.
Apple wants to remind everyone that this is a speaker and not just a box where Siri lives. Apple claims the device is also designed to make a variety of music sound good. That’s not always something its competitors can tout, though Google has touted the audio quality of the Home Max.
HomePod, like the Home Max, uses sound waves to map the room and adjusts its playback accordingly. For example, placing it on a table near the wall should make it play music differently than if you put it in the middle of the room.
The music lovers who will benefit most from HomePod, of course, will be Apple Music subscribers. Per Apple’s release, HomePod will be able to carry out lots of commands specifically from Apple Music’s 45 million song catalogue. HomePod can handle conversational questions as well such as “Hey Siri, can you play something totally different?”
HomePod will launch without an important audio feature: the ability to link HomePods together. That’s something Google and Amazon’s speakers can now do. Apple said this feature won’t be available until later this year.
Further, dedicated speaker companies such as Sonos are partnering with Google and Amazon to make smart speakers sound better. So Apple is facing plenty of competition as it tries to make a mark as a late entry into the market.