Apple has today announced that its HomePod speaker will Launch in the United States, UK and Australia on February 9, with orders beginning Friday, January 26 via Apple's online store or the Apple Store app.
HomePod will also be available from select resellers in each country, such as Best Buy in the United States, John Lewis and Argos in the UK, and Harvey Norman and Telstra in Australia.
In it's press release, Apple had the following to say about HomePod:
“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.’”
According to MacRumors, HomePod will support commands from multiple users:
HomePod will not be limited to a single user, as suggested and confirmed in the HomePod documentation. Once the HomePod is set up, anyone in the home will be able to listen to music using the Apple Music account installed on the device, and anyone will be able to ask Siri questions.
HomePod appears to be best suited for use with an Apple Music subscription. Without this, HomePod will be able to play content that's been purchased from iTunes along with Beats 1 radio and podcasts.
In the information shared today, Apple states that the HomePod's multi-room audio and stereo features won't be available at launch, with owners having to wait for them to be activated in a software update some time this year. With no indication of exactly when we will see this update, this will be a disappointment to those who were planning on buying more than one HomePod to make use of these features.
For now, we know the following in regard to what Apple has done to accommodate the needs of blind and low vision users:
- VoiceOver: HomePod’s top surface is VoiceOver compatible so changing the volume or starting playback isn’t reliant on sight.
- Touch Accommodations: With Touch Accommodations you can adjust how HomePod’s top surface responds to your touch. For example, you can control how long you touch before it’s recognized or whether to ignore repeat touches. So you can put your finger down anywhere on the HomePod top surface and move to the item you want without inadvertently performing a separate action.
- Home app: Setting up HomePod is simple through the Home app using VoiceOver and other Accessibility features within iOS. There are also various settings and controls for HomePod that are accessible via the Home app. Type to Siri or Control Center also offer alternative ways to control HomePod. (Useful, for example, for someone who uses Switch Control or is non-verbal).
Knowing how well this works in practice will have to wait until HomePod is released and people have the opportunity to test and experience it in person.
For those who will want or need to use the control panel on the top of HomePod, Apple has provided the following information:
Tap the top of HomePod to play, pause, skip a song, or adjust the volume. Touch and hold the top to talk to Siri.
The specific controls are:
Double-tap: Next Track
Triple-tap: Previous Track
Touch and hold: Siri
Tap or hold plus: Volume Up
Tap or hold minus: Volume Down
HomePod is priced at $349 in the United States, £319 in the United Kingdom, and $499 in Australia.
Apple states that HomePod will arrive in France and Germany this spring, but has not revealed how much the speaker will cost here, or provided release dates for other countries.
Further information about the features and functionality of HomePod are available on apple.com.