Apple HomePod Now Accessible in US, UK, and Australia

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Universal praise of the HomePod, which will be available Friday for $349, was about its sound quality, with reviewers saying it is by far the best-sounding speaker in the market.

In answering to your "Hey Siri" vocal commands, Apple's assistant can perform numerous same table-stakes tasks as Amazon's Alexa on Echos or the Google Assistant on Google Home speakers - from setting timers and reminders to informing you of the weather and traffic, turning on smart lights or solving math.

- How much does it cost?

"The HomePod is designed for someone with 100% Apple product buy-in, who lives in the iOS/Mac ecosystem, who subscribes to Apple Music, and who just wants basic smart speaker features", writes Nguyen at Buzzfeed.

- Why such a big difference?

The result is significantly more powerful audio performance from the HomePod compared to its two rivals.

Meanwhile, the Google Home Max can be combined with Chromecast Audio or speakers with Chromecast to play music across multiple rooms.

Time: "With the HomePod, the company will have to prove that it can compete in a game for which somebody else wrote the rules". Customers can place an order for the HomePod directly from Apple's online store, or purchase it from any nearby Apple Store.

HomePod was delayed from its original December release date until today, which initial reports blamed on unspecified software issues, and later reports suggested were due to problems with multi-HomePod synchronization - specifically two units in one room, or more units across a house. "It was better at hearing me over loud music than my other smart speakers, and very good at hearing me from across rooms with weird echoes", said The Verge's Nilay Patel.

You can control HomePod from your iPhone, though iOS doesn't make it especially easy. Before turning the stage over to Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller, Cook said that the company had made a decision to "reinvent home music", a lofty goal indeed.

Again, Apple's insistence on forcing its users into its walled garden limits the device's appeal (you better make sure you're ready to cough up for an Apple Music subscription to get the most out of the HomePod, for example). It stands just under 7-inches tall, and besides invoking "Hey Siri", you can control HomePod by tapping the top of the speaker. It will support multiple voice services, launching with Amazon Alexa, but will add Siri using AirPlay 2, and Google Assistant, in 2018.

Two weeks ago, Apple invited me to a "listening party" for its new HomePod speaker in downtown Manhattan. If you are confident that you would enjoy the HomePod, then wait.

Apple's HomePod officially goes on sale today, with online sales of the devices expected to arrive next week.

This is also a big ask for a product that still lags behind its Amazon and Google rivals in the virtual assistant stakes.

Cue up the jokes about assembling speakers on your own: Smart speaker maker Sonos and iconic Swedish furniture retailer Ikea announced a new partnership to create "future home sound experiences" Wednesday.

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