Apple HomePod smart speaker is now available for pre-order

apple homepod smart speaker multiroom wireless event 4
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends
Apple began an all-out attack on home audio last year, announcing the HomePod smart speaker at its 2017 Worldwide Developer Conference. And now, after much anticipation and delay, the HomePod has arrived: Pre-orders began online January 26, in the U.S., U.K., and Australia (Germany and France will have to wait until later in the spring), and the HomePod arrived in stores Friday, February 9.

Digital Trends finally got a review sample, and our Apple HomePod review is in. The speaker sounds amazing — but Siri still has room to grow.

Not that Apple would acknowledge that, of course.

“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 catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

“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 favorites to the latest chart-topping releases, simply by saying ‘Hey Siri.’”

Apple’s announcement comes a day after the FCC approved the sale of the $350 device, and makes good on its previous promise to begin shipping the device “in early 2018.”

Per a report from the Taipei Times, one of the HomePod suppliers, Inventec, has already made 1 million units of the smart speaker. Together with Foxconn (the other maker), the two companies expect that between 10 and 12 million units could be shipped by the end of 2018.

The HomePod takes aim at new smart speakers that have been dominating the market in recent years, including devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home, while simultaneously looking to capture the high-end (and home-filling) sound of Sonos’ multiroom speakers.

The speaker’s design doesn’t deviate much from the smart-speaker playbook, looking very similar to multiple wireless speakers on the market as of late. The speaker stands just under 7 inches tall and is covered in acoustically treated mesh. Inside is a 360-degree array of seven tweeters along the base and a 4-inch, upward-facing woofer claimed to combine for excellent, room-filling sound.

In addition, onboard processing via Apple’s A8 chip means that the speaker offers spatial awareness to automatically tune itself to any room. Multiple speakers can also be synced together, including pairing two of the speakers in stereo, a la Sonos’ Play:1 speakers, among many others.

And of course, we can’t forget the smart functionality via Apple’s sassy assistant, Siri. With an array of microphones inside and Siri on board, the HomePod will integrate seamlessly with the company’s Apple Music streaming service, allowing users to ask questions like, “What was the top song in 2015?” or more ambiguous requests like “Play something new.” Thanks to cloud connection, users can also ask the HomePod the same questions they might ask an Echo or Google Home device via Apple’s Homekit protocol, ranging from simple requests like reminders to complex smart home controls, whether you’re in your home or abroad.


You use the wake phrase “Hey, Siri” to start sending your information to the cloud via an anonymous Siri ID, and your voice is picked up with six microphones, even when your playlist is on. Thanks to encryption and anonymization, your questions and commands won’t be linked to your Apple ID. Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa make you delete your history manually if you’re uncomfortable having everything tied to your account.

Naturally, the speaker works with HomeKit, so it can control compatible smart home devices. If you have scenes set up, you can tell the speaker to turn on Going to Sleep mode or Movie Night. Since the HomePod acts as a hub, you’ll also be able to control your devices remotely, something you previously needed an Apple TV to do. What if your smart-home device isn’t HomeKit compatible? You might be out of luck.

Airplay 2

Unlike its typical closed-ecosystem approach, Apple is also casting a wide net for its new multiroom listening system, coming with Airplay’s second generation. In addition to the HomePod, the company announced the new “Airplay 2” protocol at the Worldwide Developers Conference, which will integrate with iOS 11 to allow listeners to select a variety of Airplay-supported speakers to play back music in their home at any given time, both manually, and via Siri. The Airplay 2 functionality will also support third-party applications.

Like Google’s Cast, the new multiroom audio functionality will integrate with Apple TV as well, allowing those who own Apple’s video streaming box to control playback on their larger screens.

Apple's HomePod Smart Speaker in a living room

As far as third-party speakers are concerned, the company has announced an expansive list of high-end audio partners whose devices will be supported, including acclaimed manufacturers like Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Denon, McIntosh, Bowers & Wilkins, Polk, and even the ultra-pricey Devialet brand.

This new, inclusive approach represents a significant difference between Apple’s new multiroom functionality and that of industry-leading multiroom speaker maker Sonos, which takes a top-down approach to its speaker systems, requiring listeners to buy Sonos-branded speakers to create their full-home speaker setup.


Update: We spent time with the HomePod on January 25; HomePod pre-orders will begin on January 26, and will hit stores February 9. 

Product Review

It sounds like a Sonos, but the Beam pulls one trick none of its siblings can

Sonos makes really good surround sound speakers for home theaters, but they’re expensive. A cheaper model with great sound would be a win. The Sonos Beam is that speaker, but were too many corners cut to make a more affordable product?
Product Review

Now that every speaker has Alexa, don't you want the best? Get the Sonos One

To compete in the smart speaker space, Sonos could have just made a better-sounding Alexa speaker. But the company has a reputation to uphold, and went much further. Our Sonos One Review reveals how Sonos does Alexa better than Amazon.
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Smart Home

There will be 200 million smart speakers by year’s end, analysts say

A new report by the research and analysis firm Canalys predicts that more than 200 million smart speakers will be engaged by users by the end of 2019, which is a growth of over 82% from last year.
Product Review

4K in home security is finally here, thanks to Arlo’s Ultra UHD smart cam

The 4K home security camera is finally here! Class-leading image clarity and a super-wide field of vision makes Arlo Ultra an early contender for the year’s best smart cam. While there are definite quirks to the device, the device…
Smart Home

Ecobee leverages humor in a heated discussion with climate change skeptics

Ecobee cranked up the heat on climate change doubters. In observance of Earth Day, Ecobee and ad agency DCX released video of a social experiment that tested the effectiveness of humor in easing tension during discussions with skeptics.
Smart Home

Miele stuns with wireless probe, self-descaling java pot, and other new products

Miele rocked KBIS 2019 with waves of new appliances and features. The annual Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show is all about product launches and Miele's appliance reveal was like New York Fashion Week with a single designer.

Shark, Ecovacs, and Roomba robot vacuums get price cuts for spring

The weather's getting nice again, and we're all emerging from our winter-long hibernation. So it's time once again to also start on that spring cleaning you've been putting off. But who really wants to clean when you'd rather be outside? We…
Smart Home

Echo Plus (1st-gen) vs. Echo Plus (2nd-gen): How exactly do they compare?

Which Echo Plus should you buy? This guide compares the first-generation Echo Plus its latest successor, allowing you to get a better idea regarding the ins and outs of each device.
Smart Home

Making hard-boiled eggs isn’t hard — here’s how to do it perfectly every time

With the help of science or some kitchen gadgets, making hard-boiled eggs can be a little easier. It may not be the hardest task in the world, but a few of these methods are foolproof.

Amazon and Best Buy smash prices on August smart home security locks

Amazon and Best Buy have the lowest prices for two August smart home door locks during a limited time sale. August was one of the first smart door lock companies designed specifically for smart home convenience and security.

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Smart Home

Get baked while you bake with these clever cannabis cooking gadgets

Ready to step up your edibles game? Here are the best cannabis cooking gadgets for your kitchen, from an "Instant Pot" for your cannabutter to the best grinders and decarbing devices on the market. Check out the full list for more.

This hybrid tiny home sauna gives hotbox a whole new meaning

Tiny homes seem to come in all shapes and forms these days, and Igluhuts are no exception. While the homes look more like a hobbit might come out of one on the outside, inside, there's a modern and sleek look aimed at relaxation and…