Apple will delay the launch of its HomePod 'smart speaker' until 2018, pushing back the timeline from a promised December delivery.
The HomePod – which streams tunes from Apple Music, takes voice commands via Siri, and controls smart home appliances – was originally announced in June at the company’s annual developer conference and will now go on sale in early 2018.
“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers,” Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said. “We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”
This is the second year in a row that a major new Apple audio product has been delayed. Last year, the AirPods wireless headphones were held back from an October launch until December.
Smart speakers will be a key focus for the holiday shopping season given the influx of devices coming from other players like Google, Amazon and Sonos. In turn, missing out on holiday gift purchases could mean some people opt for speakers from other companies, locking them more tightly into rival digital ecosystems.
The HomePod will sell US$349, with Australian pricing still to be announced.
PREVIOUS | Apple's much-anticipated Siri-powered 'smart speaker' broke cover overnight at Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose.
Christened the Apple HomePod, the squat but stylish device will take on not only early leaders Google and Amazon in the voice-controlled speaker market but Sonos for high-quality multi-room audio.
Inside the mesh-wrapped 18cm cylinder – which is not much taller than an iPhone 7 – is Apple's A8 processor (the same silicon powerplant as the iPhone 6 series) perched atop an array of speakers and microphones.
The former get sound flowing throughout the room; the later detect voice commands starting with "Hey Siri" to perform tasks ranging from playing music to driving HomeKit-compatible devices such as Philips Hue LED lighting.
The top of the HomePod includes integrated touch controls and also shows the Siri waveform when voice-control is active.
The HomePod will first hit the US, Australian and UK markets in December and carries a US$349 price tag – although Australian pricing has yet to be revealed, we'd peg the local stick around the $499 mark.