The much-rumored HomePod is Apple’s answer to the popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. In classic Apple fashion, however, the wireless HomePod speaker is focused first on delivering amazing audio quality that competes with the top Wi-Fi speakers available on the market. Setup will be as simple as setting up AirPods; just hold your iPhone next to a HomePod to configure it.
Physically, the HomePod is a 7-inch high cylinder covered in a 3-D acoustic mesh and available in black or white. Inside, it features a 4-inch Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, and an array of seven beamforming tweeters that provides pure high-frequency acoustics.
The smarts in Apple’s smart speaker come from Apple’s A8 chip, which powered the iPhone 6. Thanks to the A8 chip and a six-microphone array, the HomePod can optimize its audio quality for its position in a room. If you put a pair of HomePods in the same room, they detect each other automatically and balance the audio to deliver an immersive listening experience.
Those microphones also let you control the HomePod via Siri. It’s designed to work with an Apple Music subscription, and Siri will be able to respond to many more music-related queries and commands. You can also ask Siri for weather forecasts, sports scores, traffic reports, stock prices, and even unit conversions. Thanks to the HomePod’s integration with the Apple ecosystem, you’ll also be able to send messages, make reminders, set alarms and timers, and control HomeKit devices.
Because it’s Apple, protecting your privacy is paramount, so the HomePod sends nothing to Apple until you say “Hey Siri,” and even then, what you say is both anonymized and encrypted.
When it ships in December for $349, the HomePod will be more expensive than the Amazon Echo or Google Home, neither of which have particularly good sound, but cheaper than many high-quality wireless speakers. We’re looking forward to listening to our music and podcasts on the HomePod, and to seeing how successfully Siri responds to us.