Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod launches in the UK to compete with Alexa and Google Assistant
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Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, powered by virtual assistant Siri, has gone on sale in the UK today for £319.
The device sees the iPhone maker entering a marketplace currently dominated by Google and Amazon but positioned towards the higher end of the market.
While the rival companies have been trying to gain market dominance by releasing smaller, cheaper devices costing around £50, Apple is taking a different approach and positioning the HomePod as a premium music player.
The device had initially been due to launch in December. However Apple delayed the release saying it needed a “little more time” on the speaker.
In early reviews, the HomePod has been praised for its audio quality, but the intelligence and ability of Siri - compared to Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant - has been questioned.
Apple’s Phil Schiller said the focus of HomePod was on audio quality: “HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple,” he said.
“It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalogue and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use.
“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.”
Industry analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight said although the device may have some limitations, he expected Apple to still find success with it.
“Apple is clearly targeting the HomePod at a very different part of the market compared to Amazon and Google,” he said.
“It is primarily designed to listen to music, and more specifically it is optimised for Apple Music. Although there are some additional capabilities that are offered via Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, the features are merely a subset of rival products.
“Despite these limitations, we expect the product to be extremely popular. There are a huge number of affluent Apple devotees who just have to have the latest and greatest device from Apple, and within that group, there are 36 million subscribers to Apple Music. On this basis we’d expect Apple to sell a few million units this year.”
Smart home speakers have become increasingly popular in the last two years, with the Consumer Technology Association, the body that organises the annual CES tech trade show, reporting a 279 per cent increase in smart speaker sales in 2017, with a further rise of 60 per cent predicted in 2018.