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Apple finally enters the smart speaker market as HomePod goes on sale across UK

Monday, February 12th 2018 by Mike Whitehead

With the smart speaker market expected to take off in 2018, Apple has finally entered the fray with the HomePod now available throughout the UK.

Since it’s inception in 1977, Apple has been at the forefront of the technological revolution, leading the way in innovation with first, the Macintosh in 1984 and later with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch to name just a few. Apple’s four software platforms – iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS – provide a smooth, consistent user experience across all its devices.

With all this in mind it’s no wonder Apple is regarded as the most powerful technology brand able to leverage upon its incredible user loyalty to ensure any launch of a new product will be met with a fanfare its competitors could only dream of.

Apple’s belated move into the smart speaker market should be seen as no surprise, nor should the fact it has come at a time when its main competitors – Google and Amazon – already seem to have a significant head start with their own versions, Google Home and the Echo range, respectively. Apple rarely arrives first to a party.

The HomePod very much works like its rivals with its Siri-enabled speaker able to respond to voice commands and play music, search for information online, control smart devices and set alarms. The key difference, Apple claims, is that the HomePod offers far better sound quality with no sacrifice to the smartness of the device.

Quick and easy set-up

The HomePod is a cylindrical unit standing at just under 18cm tall (7 inches) and weighs 2.5kg. There is a circular control touch panel on the top where Siri appears when woken with the words “Hey, Siri” followed by your command. When music is playing a ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbol appear so you can manually adjust the volume rather than using a spoken command if you prefer.

Setting up the HomePod is pretty quick and easy. Power on the HomePod and hold your iOS device close to it, in a few taps you’re ready to rock n roll. You’ll be asked to select a room where the speaker will be placed and can make any personal settings, for example, to set any reminders. You can also transfer your iCloud, iTunes and Apple Music settings across which makes sense for requesting a specific track or playlist.

You can adjust all the settings for the HomePod in the Home app once everything is set up. The clever part comes with where you decide to place the HomePod. If you decide to place it in the corner of a room or near to a wall the speaker will automatically adjust the audio. It will also know if it has been moved and will run a location programme each time making sure the sound is correct for its location – now that’s pretty smart.

The HomePod is priced at £319 and is available through all UK Apple Stores and retailers including Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis, Very, Littlewoods and EE.

So, what value do you place on sound quality? By comparison the Google Home retails at £129 and the Amazon Echo (2nd generation) at £74.99. That’s a significant difference just for a better acoustic sound. For the price of one HomePod you could buy two Google Homes – one for downstairs, one for upstairs. Also, Google’s search capabilities are generally seen as being superior to those available through Siri.

According to a recent report by Canalys, the global smart speaker market is expected to grow to 56.3 million shipments in 2018. Amazon and Google are expected to lead the way but will Apple be able to slow them down solely reliant on brand loyalty or will a price adjustment need to be made? Time will tell.

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