First HomePod shipments are on the way to Apple ahead of launch

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The HomePod was a no-show in 2017.
HomePod's launch could be right around the corner.
Photo: Apple

Apple suppliers have begun shipping the first HomePod units ahead of the smart speaker’s much-anticipated launch. Just 1 million devices are on the way initially. However, Apple is expected to receive as many as 12 million by the end of this year.

Unveiled in June of last year, HomePod was supposed to launch ahead of the holidays but Apple delayed it because it wasn’t ready. When it finally goes on sale this year, HomePod will give Apple fans an alternative to Amazon Echo and Google Home.

HomePod launch date still a mystery

Competing smart assistants from Amazon and Google made quite a splash at this year’s massive CES electronics trade show in Las Vegas. Those companies’ smart speakers already have gained a foothold in consumers’ homes. But at CES, third-party manufacturers rolled out Alexa and Google Assistant implementations in a wide variety of products.

The steady advances make Apple’s delayed entry into the smart speaker market even more painful. In fact, Apple still hasn’t provided us with a proper HomePod release date yet. The company promised HomePod would arrive in “early 2018.” Now one supplier, Inventec, has finally started shipping the first 1 million units, according to a source for Taipei Times.

Apple also tasked Foxconn with assembling HomePod units. However, it remains unclear when Foxconn will start shipping the smart speakers. Inventec and Foxconn will share production of the 10 million to 12 million HomePods that Apple reportedly will order throughout 2018, the source added.

Analysts claimed in early January that HomePod would go on sale in four to six weeks. If that’s accurate, you’ll probably want to have your credit card ready in late January or early February.

HomePod focuses on music first

Siri powers HomePod’s smart features. That means Apple’s high-end speaker should offer many of the capabilities that make devices like the Amazon Echo incredibly popular. However, Apple focused the speaker on a stellar music experience first and foremost.

That could be Apple’s way of warning us that HomePod won’t be quite as smart as its rivals.