Apple HomePod Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

For months we’ve heard rumors of a Siri-powered rival to the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. At Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, it finally happened. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, just debuted the HomePod on stage during the WWDC keynote address.

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Like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, Apple’s HomePod is a multitasking voice control assistant.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Here’s everything we know about the HomePod right now:

  • $349 (£270/AU$465, converted)
  • Available in December in the US, UK and Australia
  • Send messages
  • Siri integration
  • HomeKit-compatible
  • Can work with Apple Music subscription 
  • Spatial awareness

We’re excited Apple’s speaker is here, but it’s also been a long time coming. Apple announced its software platform, HomeKit, at WWDC 2014. A few months later, Amazon began selling the Echo — a $180 plug-in Wi-Fi voice control speaker that answers to the wake word, “Alexa.” Alexa’s open software makes it easy for developers to create their own uses for the Echo and Amazon’s other speakers — the $50 Echo Dot, the $130 Tap, the $200 Echo Look (available by invitation) and the $230 Echo Show (available for preorder). 

Set an Echo on your kitchen counter and ask Alexa to play music and even to control lights, door locks and other home appliances while you prepare dinner. The Google Home, Google’s $130 Echo competitor (announced in May 2016) works in much the same. Say “OK, Google,” or “Hey, Google” and the Google Assistant will kick into listening mode.

HomeKit, by comparison, has lived exclusively in iOS devices for three years, without a companion piece of hardware to call home. That means anyone without an iPhone or iPad was automatically excluded from HomeKit. A standalone Siri speaker should make HomeKit much more accessible to Android customers, children and other family members who’d rather not use an iPhone to ask Siri a question.

Manufacturers wanting to integrate with Apple’s smart home platform also have to stick an MFi chip in their products before they hit shelves. So instead of a simple software update that would extend to existing customers, companies have to introduce second-generation versions of their products with an MFi chip installed. This happened with the Ecobee3 thermostat, the August Smart Lock, the Lutron Smart Bridge and a wide range of other products. 

The question now is whether Apple’s Siri speaker will be enough to compete with Amazon and Google at this late stage. Amazon has set itself apart with its sheer number of Alexa products and open software. And while Google has just one piece of hardware, it’s quickly catching up to Alexa in terms of features. I particularly like that you can enlist the Google Home to follow along with a recipe or to turn on your favorite Netflix show (if you also have Chromecast).

Apple’s Siri speaker is expected to be available in December; we’ll share updates as we learn more. 

This is a developing story. Follow our WWDC live blog for real-time coverage.

WWDC 2017: All the news so far.

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