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Apple HomePod pre-orders open, shipping on 9 February for £319

27 January 2018, 07:20 | Yvette Williams

HomePod Features release date and everything we know about Apple's smart speaker

HomePod

Before Apple even had a chance to get their HomePods on the shelves, Sonos has made their move. When Siri is listening, a soft blur of coloured lights dance on the smooth upper surface, replaced by digital plus and minus icons to adjust the volume once a song is playing. Once you've zipped through Apple's questions, you're just left waiting for setup to complete. Unfortunately, there's no indicator on the HomePod to see at a glance if the mic is on or off. It's a fun little design touch that helps tie in HomePod to Apple's product lineup, plus it adds a little character.

After spending an hour demoing Apple's new HomePod smart speaker, I can say one thing with confidence: it sounds incredible.

If you're comfortable spending a bit more and can live without having voice control, you can hit up Amazon right now and find the Sonos PLAY:1 triple pack for $447USD. The same songs played on the Google Home Max sounded oddly muddy. First up on our demo is Ariana Grande's Side to Side. So plenty of options available in the smart speaker sphere. What becomes immediately apparent is the formidable bass the HomePod kicks out.

The integration of Siri is most welcome on the HomePod, and it can do everything Siri can do for you on your iPhone. And herein lies another flaw: for now you will have to use an Apple Music account if you want to use Siri as a control. What this does is ensure you can use certain Apple services - chiefly Messages, Calendar, and Reminders - with the HomePod. The Amazon Echo and the Google Home sound good, but the HomePod elevates sound to another level.

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Sonos can still compete with Apple if it can maintain an open ecosystem and gives customers more freedom than its rivals.

Like most people, I use a menagerie of electronic devices and services from various companies. Previously, only an iPad or Apple TV could fulfill this role.

Besides being late to the game, Apple's HomePod is priced at $349, compared to an Amazon Echo at $149 and Google Home at $129. The device normally retails for $199 so basically you get a discount of $50 on two of the Sonos One. This probably isn't something too many people will care about, but Alexa and Google Assistant's voice sound more natural in comparison. But you count Apple out in the hardware business at your peril. Android users must look elsewhere for a smart speaker. But if you're paying the monthly fee for Apple Music anyway, then this is your jam (box).

You don't feel like talking to Alexa or Google Assistant? Meanwhile, other smart speakers already support multi-room music playing.



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