Apple announced its HomePod is finally headed to stores after delays pushed back the smart speaker’s original launch date.

The company said HomePod will hit shelves in the US, UK and Australia on 9 February following an ordering period which opens on 26 January. Apple added HomePod will become available in France and Germany in the coming months.

Philip Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing, said in a statement the company is “so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments and businesses”, adding “we think they will be blown away by the audio quality”.

Apple introduced the HomePod in June 2017 in a bid to take on Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet’s popular Google Home offerings. But it has a long way to climb.

Facing the competition
Strategy Analytics forecast in October 2017 some 68 per cent of smart speakers sold globally during Q4 2017 would be based on Amazon’s Alexa assistant, which is the underlying technology in the Echo lineup. The majority of the remaining market share was expected to go to Google.

Apple must also overcome discrepancies in cost and features. HomePod’s $349 price tag is more than double the cost of Google Home and more than three times the cost of Amazon’s Echo hub. HomePod, which was designed to work with Apple Music, will also initially lack the multi-room playback capability which is standard in other smart and wireless speakers. Apple said the feature will be added later this year via a software update.