I just spent a moment with Appleâ€™s new HomePod intelligent speaker, which kind of looks like a mesh-wrapped Mac Pro. It comes in black and white, and itâ€™s cute. Like a cute little ovoid thing. It has seven tweeters in the bottom, along with a four-inch woofer, and six microphones at the top. Itâ€™s about the size of two large grapefruits stacked on top of each other, I guess, if I needed to describe it. Smaller than a breadbox, anyway.
When you say â€œHey, Siri,â€ it lights up at the top with a little waveform, and you can ask for a lot of Siri-type things, like reminders, timers, and random questions. Or at least, itâ€™s supposed to do that. In the â€œdemoâ€ area, I looked around at all the Apple representatives, said â€œHey, Siriâ€ in a clear voice, and all I heard in response was the sound of their laughter. Nice try, Dieter.
The bit on top that lights up is neat, though. It looks a lot like the waveform you see on Siri when you speak to it on your phone â€” though, of course, this doesnâ€™t look like a complete LCD here. You wonâ€™t be getting any visual answers out of the HomePod.
Thereâ€™s also an A8 chip inside that does automatic EQ and echo cancellation with beamforming for the tweeters â€” it detects the size and shape of a room to tune the best sound. Again, this isnâ€™t something Apple is showing in the demo area, but given the companyâ€™s ability to make great hardware, I bet it works well. Iâ€™m actually more curious to know how Apple is handling multi-room setups â€” something no company not named â€œSonosâ€ has really figured out.
Appleâ€™s also promoting the privacy aspects of the HomePod â€” it doesnâ€™t send anything to Apple until you say â€œHey Siri,â€ and then it sends data using an anonymous encrypted Siri ID. Weâ€™ll have to learn a lot more about what that means, of course.
Appleâ€™s billing the HomePod as a home music speaker first of all, connecting it to the iPod, iPhone, Apple Music, and AirPods. So thereâ€™s a lot of focus on Apple Music integration. Even still, with integrated microphones and Siri, it obviously competes with Amazonâ€™s various Echo devices and Google Home, and Apple hasnâ€™t really discussed in detail how Siri and HomeKit will match the extensibility of those platforms. But itâ€™s exciting, and weâ€™ll see when it ships in December for $349.
Unfortunately, thatâ€™s about all we can say about this thing for now. The HomePods are here in the demo area, but theyâ€™re nonfunctional beyond lighting up. I plan on going back into the demo zone and hollering â€œHey Siriâ€ again, and Iâ€™ll report back if anything there changes.