Apple HomePod available for pre-order this Friday

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Apple have announced pre-orders are opening for their HomePod Virtual Assistant device on the 26th of January in the UK with delivery expected on the 9th of February.

The HomePod with Siri is Apples attempt to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home, but they’re late to the party and with tens of millions of devices already sold but their competitors, it’s fair to ask if Apple have missed the boat for this type of device. The run up to Christmas saw millions more of Echos and Homes sold (Google sold over 6 million devices between October and Christmas).

What Apple really want and their main marketing thrust, is to get you playing Apple Music on your HomePod device – they want to stem the flow of users subscribing to Spotify. Spotify is available on both Google Home and Amazon’s Echo so it’s going to be an uphill struggle to attract Apple users who already have one or other of these devices.

“We’re so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments and businesses to hear it for themselves. We think they will be blown away by the audio quality.”
– Philip Schiller, Apple SVP Worldwide Marketing

The price also isn’t going to appeal to any other than the hardened Apple aficionado. At £319 in the UK ($349 in the US), you could get either an Amazon Echo Plus and handful of Echo Dots or equally a Google Home and some Home Minis for the cost of a single HomePod.

Apple do have a handful of Smart Home device integrations, but again many on their list of compatible products are simply ‘announced’ and not yet available. There’s definitely a US centric approach to the Smart Home Apple partners and for those in the UK who have already invested in British Gas Hive then Amazon Alexa is definitely your best option as Apple have no support announced. (Google do support Hive accessories such as switches and lights, but not your thermostat!).

Perhaps the biggest strength of the HomePod is also it’s biggest failing and that is the total reliance on Siri. Apple users will be accustomed to Siri but those who don’t have an iPhone won’t be impressed and indeed may struggle to even get a HomePod working – “Simply plug it in and your iOS device will detect it” won’t work if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad! (Apple only have a decent marketshare in the US, UK, Northern Europe and Australia, Android dominates the rest of the world.)

It would appear that Apple are late to launch, have missed the Christmas period and have limited appeal to those who aren’t already Apple customers. Both Amazon Echo and especially Google Home devices have no ties to the smartphone or tablet choices you make and appear to have more universal appeal. Even Apple iPhone owners who have already invested in an alternative will be hard pressed to find a compelling reason to buy a comparatively pricey HomePod. Apple may have to rely on those customers who simply have to have all the latest Apple devices, but that’s a relatively small market compared to those that use Google or even those that have an Amazon account.

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