Apple's $349 Premium Siri-Powered Smart Speaker Starts Shipping February 9

Apple's new HomePod will arrive in stores from Friday, February 9 and will be available for orders online from January 26, only in the US, UK, and Australia, while France and Germany shall be added to this list from spring.

Apple Inc. will start selling its voice-activated speaker HomePod in stores February 9, after a launch delay that cost the company sales during the critical holiday shopping season.

Apple originally meant to release the smart speaker system by the end of 2017, but the company delayed production in mid-December, according to The Verge.

In case you do not know, smart speakers like this one can be used to interact with other devices in the house (smart home and IoT) or to get some info about news, weather, and many other things.

That is reflected in the price though, at $499 the HomePod is way more expensive than the devices it will be compared to - Google Home and Amazon Echo, however it's not really comparable.

It's powered by Apple's Siri virtual assistant, and can be controlled by voice commands. Neither Amazon Echo or Google Home are yet to offer this feature.

Apple unveiled HomePod at WWDC back in June, where Tim Cook and Phil Schiller touted the device's musical capabilities. If your device is compatible with iOS 11 or is already running that version of the Apple OS, then updating shouldn't be an issue.

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It builds on a feature introduced in the last update, iOS 11.2.2, which let you ask Siri to recite the news but was limited to content from select sources.

The device will sell for United States dollars 349 in a choice of white or space grey.

When Apple chose to delay the release date of the HomePod, the company didn't provide a reason why. The feature is now only supported in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia. The two now dominate the smart speaker market, putting the newcomer at a disadvantage.

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.

At the time, an Apple spokesperson said: "We can't wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple's breakthrough wireless speaker for the home".

To differentiate itself from the other smart speakers, Apple also promises to deliver excellent audio quality. And video streaming giant Roku Inc (NASDAQ:ROKU) made moves toward entering the smart speaker market.

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