The Amazon Echo and Google Home now have a legitimate competitor from Apple. The HomePod, Apple's smart speaker will not only be able to stream music, but will have Siri built in and be able to control smart home devices through HomeKit.
Available in December, it won't be cheap—$349—but Apple boasts that it will have better audio than its competition. Here's what we know about it so far.
At about 7 inches tall, the HomePod is a bit squatter than the Amazon Echo, but roughly the same size as Google Home. The cylindrical HomePod is covered in a mesh fabric, and will come in either gray or white. Inside are 7 tweeters arrayed along the bottom, as well as a single up-firing 4-inch woofer. Like other smart speakers, the HomePod has an array of six microphones that are used not just to listen for someone's voice, but also to map a room's acoustic properties, and tailor the output from the speakers accordingly.
Powering the HomePod is an Apple A8 processor, the same used in the iPhone. Not surprisingly, the HomePod is also Siri-enabled, and will let you ask of it a wide range of things, including news, music, weather, sports, and more. While it's not as extensive as what Alexa or Google Home can offer, it looks like a fairly good start.
Via Siri, you'll also be able to issue HomeKit commands through the HomePod, such as turning your lights on and off, or locking your doors. Apple's HomeKit is a bit behind other smart home platforms, but there is a small but growing list of compatible devices that work with it.
Apple seems to be concentrating on the music capabilities of the HomePod to start. It links to your Apple Music subscription to learn your likes and dislikes, and, apparently, will be able to respond to requests as vague as "play something new," and "play something mellow."
At $349, HomePod is significantly more expensive than the $199 Amazon Echo and the $179 Google Home. However, if its audio capabilities are as good as Apple claims, it could be inviting for iPhone and iPad owners looking for a single do-everything speaker for their home or apartment.