Apple HomePod materializes on February 9 for $349

Siri was the first AI-powered digital assistant to gain major traction in the market, but it's not her you'll be talking to in most assistant-equipped households. Even though Apple showed the HomePod over six months ago at WWDC 2017, the product has failed to materialize until now. The Cupertino corporation just announced that you'll be able to put Siri on a shelf on February 9.

Apple originally put the HomePod down for a December 2017 release date, but the standalone speaker silently slipped past that date. The product seems unchanged from what Apple originally showed, and the company didn't give a reason for the delay. In any case, the HomePod is a small unit with six microphones, eight speakers, and Wi-Fi to connect users to Siri's library of voice commands.

Like its contemporaries Google Home and Amazon Echo, the HomePod can be used for almost anything you would normally use Siri for: playing music, performing searches, setting timers and reminders, and other tasks. The HomePod lacks a feature its competitors already have, though: multi-room audio. Apple says a free software update will enable multi-room audio and stereo audio playback through multiple HomePods in the same room "this year."

Along with the release date, Apple also announced the HomePod's pricetag: $349 (£319 in the UK). There's no two ways about it—that's three and a half times what Amazon asks for an Echo. Apple's device seems to have an emphasis on audio quality and it's difficult to judge it without listening, but then another $50 gets you a Google Home Max. Of course, Google's device isn't very useful to an Apple Music subscriber. The Apple HomePod will be available for online ordering this Friday.

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