• Apple's HomePod becomes available for preorders on Friday. It will cost $349 and hit store shelves on February 9.
  • HomePod is an Amazon Echo competitor that users talk to by saying, "Hey Siri!"
  • It was supposed to be released in December but it was delayed. 

Apple's HomePod goes up for preorder on Friday.

The $349 speaker will start shipping to customers on February 9, Apple said on Tuesday in a statement.  

The HomePod was revealed last summer with a promised launch before the end of 2017, but Apple delayed the product in December, saying "we need a little more time before it's ready for our customers."

It's launching only in the U.S., U.K., and Australia for now.

HomePod is a direct competitor to Amazon Echo and speakers with Google's Assistant installed. It comes with Siri installed, and users interact with Apple's smart speaker by talking to it.

"It's gonna rock the house."


Apple hopes to set HomePod apart from its competitors by emphasizing sound quality. The speaker has seven different tweeters and six microphones.

"We decided we would combine great sound and an intelligent speaker," Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg last summer.

"When I was growing up, audio was No. 1 on the list of things that you had to have. You were jammin' out on your stereo. Audio is still really important in all age groups, not just for kids. We're hitting on something people will be delighted with. It's gonna blow them away. It's gonna rock the house," he continued.

HomePod does a lot of behind-the-scenes calculations to improve its sound quality. It has an iPhone chip running acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation, according to Apple. 

However, compared to Amazon's Echo, the number of things users can control with Siri through HomePod may be limited. Voice music controls are reserved for Apple Music, and not Spotify, for example.

Users can interact with the speaker by saying "Hey Siri," then giving a command. Setting up the speaker is easy: simply place your iPhone near the speaker, and it will pair the two, according to Apple. 

Here's how Apple describes the Siri features on HomePod:

"Using just your voice, it's easy and fun to use, and works together with an Apple Music subscription for a breakthrough music experience, providing access to one of the world's largest cloud music libraries. Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices, has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes. And with Siri, HomePod can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories."