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Apple Starts Selling HomePod on Feb. 9

Apple’s $349 HomePod speaker is finally here: The company’s first smart speaker will be available for sale on Feb. 9 in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Consumers will be able to pre-order the device starting January 26, the company announced Tuesday.

Apple first announced the HomePod last summer, and had originally planned to release it before the end of 2017. However, in November, news broke that Apple had to delay the release until after the holiday season. “We need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers,” the company said at the time.

Even with that extra time, the HomePod won’t have all of its key features available at launch. Consumers will be able to control the device with Siri voice commands and use it to interact with smart appliances around their home. But the HomePod won’t ship with multi-room audio functionality, or the ability to pair two speakers for stereo sound. Those features will be enabled later this year with a software update, according to Apple.

With HomePod, Apple is competing in an increasingly crowded smart speaker market, with competitors including Amazon, Google and Sonos. Apple is aiming to stand out from the crowd with superior audio quality, using software to adapt the sound  to the acoustic qualities of a room.  However, Google’s Home Max speaker promises to do much of the same with a technology Google calls smart sound, and Sonos has been offering its customers the ability to fine-tune their speakers based on their homes for some time as well.

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