In case you missed it, Apple held its annual developer conference keynote on Monday, during which it announced a slew of new products. Most were sleeker refreshes of existing offerings in Apple's portfolio, but the most buzzed-about product was, perhaps, the HomePod, a Siri-enabled speaker system with six microphones that’s just barely seven inches tall. It's equipped with a four-inch subwoofer and an A8 chip, and it comes in two colors, white and slate.
Set to hit stores at an indeterminate point in December, the HomePod is something like the lovechild of the Sonos speaker (the cheapest goes for $199) and Google Home ($129) or Amazon Echo ($180). But its price point is significantly higher than its predecessors: It retails for $349.
To account for this, the HomePod is endowed with sensory capabilities that exceed those of its competitors: It adjusts audio levels based on the room’s spatial and acoustic surroundings, which results in fuller, more ambient sound than you'd get from most speakers on the market.
The HomePod's outfitted with Siri, who’s been trained to answer music-specific questions (though she'll still react to your other curiosities about the weather or news). Apple promises that the HomePod won't hit the same snags that have plagued Alexa, the device so smart that she accidentally orders dollhouses; it’s engineered to wake up only when it hears the “Hey, Siri” command. The HomePod acts as a centralized node through which you can control HomeKit devices if you’ve filled your house with them.
Most reviews have confirmed that the HomePod does, at the very least, meet its stated directive of being a seriously rich, high-quality speaker system. For now, the HomePod only supports Apple Music, and is engineered with the assumption that you’ve got a subscription, a significant blemish on its value proposition.
Well, I can't say I'll be buying this product come holiday season—I’m far outside Apple’s target demographic here, as my home doesn’t necessarily need a smart speaker. Especially one that’s so hard on the wallet. But it remains to be seen whether it changes the way we listen to music in our homes in any critical way. Until December.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.