The smart home speaker competition is getting fierce. Amazon, Google, and Apple (among others) have all announced speaker products. Unfortunately, Apple, the last of these big three companies to debut a smart speaker, seems to have hit a snag and delayed the launch of HomePod until 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. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018,” Apple said this week in a brief statement.
Apple first announced the HomePod at WWDC in June. The $349 device has Siri built-in, for voice-powered commands and queries, and high-end audio hardware. This includes seven tweeters and a four-inch woofer for full, “spacious” sound. To that end, the speaker can also sense the space it’s in. It can adapt its audio qualities as needed to optimize its sound for where it’s positioned.
At this point, it’s unclear what the reason is for the HomePod delay. It is a first-generation product for the company. It’s possible there could be issues with optimizing the software—getting those spatial optimization algorithms just right sounds challenging. Alternatively, it could be a problem with hardware. Perhaps Apple couldn’t source, manufacture, or assemble high-enough quality parts within its original timeline. Last year, Apple also delayed the launch of its AirPods wireless earbuds. Originally set to debut in October, they ended up shipping in December.
The delay is unfortunate for Apple, as it means the company misses out on the lucrative holiday sales season. However, it may not be a huge deal for those embedded in Apple’s product ecosystem and planning to buy the HomePod regardless. It’s also better for everyone—consumers and Apple alike—for the company to ensure its home music speaker delivers on its promises and isn’t filled with bugs. Initial reviews and hands-on experiences with the speaker were favorable. Making sure that quality translates across thousands (or millions) of units is a different challenge.