On Friday, November 17, Apple announced that it was pushing the release date of the $349 speaker, initially set for December, to 2018. A statement put out by the company this morning noted that Apple needs a little more time to perfect the Siri-enabled smart speaker, which will compete with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant when it hits the market.
“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,” a spokesperson told Tech Crunch. “We’ll start shipping in the U.S., U.K., and Australia in early 2018.”
The speaker, which was introduced with big fanfare at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, is the company’s answer to Amazon’s popular Echo speaker lineup that now includes several devices. At the time, Apple touted the device as a quality sound speaker first and a home assistant second, with 360-degree tweeters along the base and a 4-inch, upward-facing woofer. As a smart home assistant, the HomePod works with Siri and Apple HomeKit, and like other smart speakers, will be able to control things like light bulbs and door locks with voice command.
If the speaker delivers as promised on sound, the main competition will likely not only be Amazon, but Google, which recently released the Echo-Dot like Google Home Mini and the bass-booming Google Home Max, a $399 speaker designed for audio snobs scheduled to ship in December. The HomePod will also have to compete with recently released devices like the Alexa-enabled Sonos One speaker.
In terms of smart home assistant, Apple is currently running a distant third in the market, which isn’t bad for a platform without corresponding hardware, making us wonder if the delay in release is to give Apple time to improve the bells and whistles of the device and build up the list of devices compatible with Siri in a market being flooded with smart speakers.
Apple gave no details on when the device will be in consumers hands, other than to say “early 2018.”
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