Apple over the past few months has been on the receiving end of some well-deserved criticism regarding a number of increasingly high-profile product delays. Most recently, Apple was forced to push back the release of its HomePod smart speaker by a few weeks.

Originally scheduled to hit store shelves in December, strategically timed to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season, Apple in November said that the HomePod release was being pushed back to early 2018. Apple didn’t provide much of an explanation, save for a generic statement that the company needed a “little more time before it’s ready for our customers.” Though the specific reason behind the delay was never made clear, the good news is that Apple’s highly anticipated HomePod finally has a release date.

Earlier today, Apple announced that the HomePod will be released to customers in the US, the UK, and Australia on February 9th. As far as smart speakers are concerned, Apple’s HomePod — not surprisingly — doesn’t come cheap. With a retail price of $349, the HomePod is significantly more expensive than competing products from the likes of Amazon and Google.

That said, Apple is positioning the HomePod as a premium acoustic device capable of delivering sound that Google Home and the Amazon Echo simply can’t match. Indeed, Apple’s website boasts that the HomePod incorporates “advanced software” capable of providing high-fidelity and immersive sound “throughout the room, no matter where it’s placed.”

Further, Tim Cook this past summer explained why he believes there’s enough room in the smart speaker market for the HomePod to truly thrive.

“I think when people listen to it, they are going to be shocked over the quality of the sound, and of course it does a lot of other things,” Cook explained during an interview at WWDC last year. “But we wanted a really high quality audio experience as well.

Driving the point home, Apple on the HomePod webpage details how the device was designed and engineered to deliver an incredible listening experience:

We built the high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier to play a wide range of deep, rich bass. A powerful motor drives the diaphragm a full 20 mm — remarkable for a speaker this size. Meanwhile, HomePod uses an advanced algorithm that continuously analyzes the music and dynamically tunes the low frequencies for smooth, distortion‑free sound.

Beyond acoustic performance, Siri integration will naturally figure prominently in the HomePod experience. Interestingly, Apple’s HomePod will be able to handle a wide variety of advanced music-oriented queries such as, “Who’s playing bass on this song?”

Preorders for Apple’s new HomePod speaker will open this Friday, January 26th, ahead of the speaker’s release two weeks later.

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