Apple’s HomePod becomes available for pre-orders on Friday. It will cost $349 and will hit store shelves on February 9. HomePod is an Amazon Echo competitor that users talk to by saying,”Hey Siri!”
The $349 speaker will start shipping to customers on February 9, Apple said in a statement.
The HomePod was revealed last summer with a promised launch before the end of 2017, but Apple delayed the product in December, saying that “we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers.”
HomePod is a direct competitor to Amazon Echo and speakers with Google’s Assistant installed. It comes with Siri installed, and users interact with Apple’s smart speaker by talking to it.
Apple hopes to set HomePod apart from its competitors by emphasizing sound quality. The speaker has seven different speaker tweeters and six microphones.
HomePod does a lot of behind-the-scenes calculations to improve its sound quality. It has an iPhone chip running acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation, according to Apple.
However, compared to Amazon’s Echo, the number of things that users can control with Siri through HomePod may be limited. Voice music controls are reserved for Apple Music, and not Spotify, for example.
Users can interact with the speaker by saying “Hey Siri,” then giving a command. Setting up the speaker is easy: simply place your iPhone near the speaker, and it will pair the two devices.
Early testers of Apple’s upcoming HomePod have shared screenshots of customizable settings for the speaker, which will be configured through the iOS Home app. Users will be able to disable features such as “Hey Siri,” and the lighted display on top of the unit.
A detailed look at the HomePod settings within the Home app was shared by French site iGeneration. There, users will be able to disable features including detection of “Hey Siri,” as well as pressing the screen to speak to Siri.
Another option lets users disable the display light when using Siri. Toggling that will allow the screen to stay dark when Siri is invoked, for those who might not want the illumination from the unit.
Apple has also included various accessibility options for HomePod, including the VoiceOver service that already exists on other platforms like iOS and Mac. Within the Home app, users will be able to configure the speed of audible voice prompts given via VoiceOver.
The HomePod also has various sounds as part of its interface, and these can be enabled or disabled from within the Home app.
Other options include the ability to adjust how much pressure must be placed on the buttons, how long they must be pressed to be invoked, and to ignore multiple button presses.
Here’s how Apple describes the Siri features on HomePod:
Using just your voice, it’s easy and fun to use, and works together with an Apple Music subscription for a breakthrough music experience, providing access to one of the world’s largest cloud music libraries. Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices, has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes. And with Siri, HomePod can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories.
It’s only launching in the US, UK and Australia for now.