HomePod latest news - UK price, release date, design & specs

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Apple has finally entered the smart speaker market with HomePod, its long-awaited Siri speaker. Here's what we know about the device's release date, price and tech specs

Welcome to our HomePod guide, which covers everything you need to know about Apple's upcoming smart speaker, from features and release date to expected UK price.

Apple is finally getting into the smart home speaker business with the HomePod. This will be competing with the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, successful smart speakers which have also driven popularity for those company's Siri-rivalling voice assistants.

Much like its rivals, the Siri-enabled HomePod speaker will be able to respond to voice commands and play music, set alarms, control smart devices and search for information online. What's different - Apple claims - is that the device will blow the competition away on sound quality, so you don't have to sacrifice your audiophile credentials for the sake of smartness. Read next: Best wireless speakers

Release date

The HomePod will come out in December 2017 - that's official, straight from Apple - but we haven't yet heard the exact release date.

The HomePod will initially be available in the US, UK and Australia, Apple announced at its WWDC 2017 developer conference, with more markets to follow in 2018. Appropriately for those initial target markets, the HomePod is slated to offer only English-language support at first; Siri of course is far more versatile, supporting dozens of languages, so it shouldn't be difficult for Apple to expand into other territories.

One analyst firm is already predicting great things for the HomePod launch, noting that 14 percent of surveyed iPhone owners said they plan to buy one of the devices. The corresponding figure for the Apple Watch in the months before that product launched was just 6 percent.

HomePod release date & UK price rumours

UK price

It's been announced that the HomePod will cost $349 in the US, but Apple hasn't yet confirmed UK pricing. We'd expect it to be pretty close to £349, based on the effective exchange rate Apple tends to use when planning its transatlantic pricing strategies since the Brexit referendum.

Both of those figures are markedly higher than those for the HomePod's nearest competitors. The Amazon Echo is priced at £149.99/$179.99, and its cheaper Echo Dot is available for £49.99/$49.99, while the Google Home is £129/$129. Read more: Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo

Design

In line with the designs chosen by rivals Amazon and Google, Apple has opted for a cylindrical design for the HomePod.

Available in either white or Space Grey, the HomePod stands just under 7 inches tall, and is covered almost head to toe in a "seamless 3D mesh fabric". There's just space at the top for the Siri interface, a small screen that lights up with a Siri waveform when he or she is assisting you with something.

HomePod release date & UK price rumours

The top section includes touch controls for Siri, but Apple has not announced any kind of substantial screen similar to Amazon's Echo Show. However, developer Steve Troughton-Smith delved into the HomePod firmware and discovered that the surface at the top of the speaker (displayed above) looks to be an LED Matrix, suggesting that the device could display shapes and symbols such as weather icons and temperature.

Features

During the WWDC 2017 announcement, Apple made a great deal of the HomePod's musical functionality, going so far as to claim that the smart speaker will "reinvent home music".

To start with, that comes from the speaker itself. It features a 4in, Apple-designed upward-facing woofer paired with an array of seven beam-forming tweeters, each with its own amplifier. During the announcement, Apple compared the HomePod to the Sonos range of wireless speakers, suggesting that Apple is confident the HomePod is of a similar audio quality.

The speaker itself is backed by spatial awareness technology, powered by an A8 chip, which apparently means the HomePod can analyse the room it's in and optimise audio output for the surroundings. It apparently works even better if you have two (or more?) HomePods in the same room, as they'll work together to create the best sound possible.

HomePod release date & UK price rumours: Internal design

Of course, all of that just makes for a good speaker - what makes the HomePod special is that it is a smart, Siri-powered speaker. That means it can connect to Apple Music and all of your other Apple services to function as a home assistant.

There are six microphones built into the top ring of the device so that it can pick up your voice from anywhere in the room, even with music playing, and a Siri waveform will appear on the top section (which doubles as touch controls) when she's responding to one of your queries.

When it comes to music, that means it can do things like play a certain song, album, artist or genre on command; let you know information such as when a song was recorded or who the drummer was; and even just "play more like this".

Beyond that, the smart functionality is similar to what you're already used to from Siri. The HomePod can be used to set reminders, answer questions, or check the weather. It can also integrate with all your HomeKit-compatible appliances to become the hub of your smart home.

But while Siri will be your best friend, don't think about installing apps - it won't be possible at launch, according to developer Steve Troughton-Smith. Smith claims that while the HomePod presents itself as an iPhone SE to iTunes and despite discovering 'apps' for Apple Music and Podcast, there is no way to install any third-party apps or extensions. With rival Alexa's library of apps growing quickly and expanding its functionality, we're not sure this is a great idea on Apple's part.

However, Apple appears to be making a big marketing push at the moment to remind or persuade the public of all the things that Siri can do - witness the big-budget Siri advert starring Dwayne Johnson - and we'd imagine this is to prepare the way for the HomePod.

Apple also made a point of emphasising its approach to privacy and security. The company claims the HomePod will only send any information to Apple's servers after 'Hey Siri' is recognised, and that even then it will be "encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier".

Tech specs

Apple has talked up the HomePod's audiophile credentials. As an all-in-one wireless speaker it's unlikely to challenge the very best (and most expensive) high-end speaker setups, but the tech specs are still pretty impressive:

  • A8 chip
  • High-excursion woofer with custom amplifier
  • Seven horn-loaded tweeters
  • Six microphones
  • Internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi?Fi with MIMO; AirPlay 2 with multi-room support
  • Available in white or Space Grey
  • 172mm high; 142mm wide; 2.5kg

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