Apple rumors didn’t stop coming this week, but they all took second place to HomePod, the company’s upcoming smart speaker.
Apple on Friday started accepting pre-orders on its HomePod, two weeks before they start shipping on Feb. 9. And as expected, industry watchers are now questioning whether the new device can compete with the market leader, Amazon’s Echo.
Like the Echo, Apple’s HomePod comes with the ability to stream music. HomePod is controlled by Apple’s virtual personal assistant Siri, a competitor to the Echo’s Alexa. Armed with Siri, users will be able to add events to their calendars, control smart home devices like thermostats and light bulbs, and hear text messages sent to their connected iPhones. But at $349, the HomePod is expensive—especially considering that the Echo costs $100.
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But this week wasn’t only about HomePod. So read on for the biggest news and rumors from this week in Apple news:
- Apple this week announced that its HomePod would go on sale on Feb. 9. The company also opened pre-orders Friday morning. The HomePod will cost $349 and will be available in both gray and white. If you’re not a fan of Apple’s stores, you can also pre-order the smart speaker at Best Buy.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook this week made the sales pitch for HomePod by saying it would offer the best sound of any other smart speaker. He also touted its integration with Apple’s software, including Apple Music streaming, Siri virtual personal assistant, and messaging app Messages.
- There appears to be some debate over whether the iPhone X’s sales are strong. Researcher Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) said that iPhone X accounted for 20% of all U.S. iPhone sales in the fourth quarter. That was enough for the iPhone X to top the iPhone 8 Plus, which accounted for 17% of total iPhone sales, but the $1,000 smartphone lagged the iPhone 8’s 24% market share. Although that’s not the best of news for Apple, CIRP said that the iPhone X was released in November and therefore didn’t benefit from October sales like the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus did.
- The CIRP study was followed this week by a report from research firm Canalys, which said that Apple sold 29 million iPhone Xs in the fourth quarter, including 7 million in the U.S. That was enough to top the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, according to Canalys. Still, the researcher said that the iPhone has performed “slightly below industry expectations.”
- Apple in December acquired music-discovery service Shazam for a reported $400 million. And this week, Midia analyst Mark Mulligan said that it’s possible the Shazam buy will net Apple up to 7.5 million new subscribers to Apple Music. Mulligan said Shazam has 150 million monthly active users and that he believes up to 5% of them who aren’t Apple Music subscribers will now sign up for the streaming-music service. He didn’t say when he expects those users to sign up.
- Apple will release a software update that will let users disable a function that slows down older iPhones when their batteries start to malfunction. Apple had previously released software that would slow down an iPhone when its battery was low or not working properly. The feature ensured the iPhone wouldn’t randomly shut down. After facing widespread criticism, Apple will allow users to disable the feature, but it suggested that they don’t actually turn it off.
One more thing…Apple’s hiring of product designers has risen sharply since October. Of course, Apple isn’t saying why, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation from running rampant.
Correction 1/29/18: This story incorrectly listed Mark Mulligan’s firm as DN Capital. He’s an analyst at Midia.