HomePod Starts Shipping February 9, Available to Order This Friday, Still a Bit of a Mystery


HomePod, the innovative wireless speaker from Apple, arrives in stores beginning Friday, February 9 and is available to order online this Friday, January 26 in the US, UK and Australia. HomePod will arrive in France and Germany this spring.

I’m looking forward to trying it, but this seems like an odd product rollout. The only time anyone outside Apple has seen HomePod so far was at WWDC, and that was so early that no one was allowed to give it voice commands or even touch it. Perhaps there will be some advance reviews that drop before February 9, but it doesn’t seem like there are going to be any before pre-orders start this week. That’s not unusual in and of itself: Apple’s usual schedule is for advance reviews to drop the week after they begin taking pre-orders for a product. But the full functionality of most new Apple products is demonstrated on stage or in small press briefings prior to that. HomePod’s functionality is still a bit of a mystery. From Apple’s announcement today:

Through SiriKit, HomePod supports third-party messaging apps, so users can ask Siri to send a message to a friend or colleague using apps like WhatsApp. Reminders, note-taking and to-do list apps like Things and Evernote will automatically work with HomePod, so Siri can set reminders, create a new list, mark items as complete, or create and modify notes. For developers interested in adding SiriKit support, more information is available at developer.apple.com/sirikit.

How does this handle multiple people in the same home? That seems like a big question to remain unanswered before folks start plunking down $349. This feels like if Apple had started selling the iPod back in 2001 without ever having explained how the click wheel worked or how you synced music to it from iTunes, and instead just said “Trust us, it’s great.”

Also: AirPlay 2 has been postponed until “later this year” — and AirPlay 2 is required for using two HomePods in stereo or multi-room audio. Both of those features were promised all the way back in June when HomePod was announced.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018