HomePod, Apple’s first entry into the booming smart speaker market, finally has a concrete release date.

Apple

Apple announced today that HomePod will be hitting the market on Friday, Feb. 9. Online preorders for the speaker start this Friday, Jan. 26, in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. A release is scheduled for France and Germany in the spring.

HomePod was supposed to be released in late 2017, but the company pushed the release date back, missing the holiday shopping window.

Apple is definitely late to the smart speaker space, as Amazon’s Echo products have been on the market for years. Google’s smart speakers, like Google Home, have also caught on with consumers, so it appears that Apple has some catching up to do.

[Check out our Security Watch article comparing Amazon Echo and Google Home.]

However, it’s clear that Apple doesn’t want to compete directly with either Amazon Echo or Google Home. HomePod is entering the market at $349, which is a few steps up in price from most of the smart speakers offered by Amazon or Google.

All About Audio

Apple has focused on HomePod’s audio experience. Though users will be able to access Siri to ask questions and perform typical home assistant tasks, there’s a reason Apple is billing HomePod as a “home music speaker.”

HomePod boasts seven tweeters, six microphones, and a large woofer, as well as advanced software for audio. It’s meant to be more than utilitarian — its closest competitor is probably Google’s $399 Google Home Max. Apple notes that a free software update later this year will allow for multi-room audio — or stereo listening in the same room — from multiple HomePods (though only high-end customers will be likely to consider buying more than one HomePod).

Like most Apple products, HomePod will work best for users who are already tied into the Apple ecosystem. That includes people who use Apple Music instead of another streaming option, like Spotify.

Security And Privacy

Apple says that “only after ‘Hey Siri’ is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.” It also appears that users will be able to temporarily mute the HomePod’s always-listening mics through Apple’s Home app.

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