Apple’s past week was all about sound.
After months of anticipation, Apple on Friday finally released its HomePod smart speaker. The device, which costs $349, is Apple’s answer to competitors like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home that come with virtual personal assistants that let users play music, control smart home devices like thermostats and lights, and give users access to their calendars. Now questions abound over whether Apple can compete in a hotly contested market with a virtual assistant in Siri that doesn’t work as well as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
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But it wasn’t all about HomePod. This week, we heard rumors that Apple has big plans for a product release in March. Meanwhile, the New York Police Department (NYPD) is now using iPhones.
Read on to learn about all that and more from this week’s look back at the biggest Apple news and rumors of the last several days:
- Apple’s HomePod was released on Friday. The smart speaker is available at Apple stores and Best Buy locations, as well as Apple’s online store. It costs $349. If you order an Apple HomePod on the company’s online marketplace today, however, look for it to ship next week: Apple’s initial supply for online orders sold out last week.
- Overall, Apple’s HomePod reviews were quite good, with many critics saying that the device’s sound quality was second to none in its marketplace. However, they all cautioned that Apple’s Siri needs to gain some smarts if it ever wants to compete with Amazon’s Alexa, the smart assistant baked into HomePod competitor Echo.
- If you’ve bought a HomePod or plan to do so soon, don’t break it. Apple this week published a support page online that said the company will charge HomePod owners $279 to fix out-of-warranty units. The HomePod, however, is fully covered in its first year of use and if you splurge for a $39 AppleCare+ warranty on the smart speaker, you’ll extend your coverage out to two years. In other words, get AppleCare+ on HomePod.
- The NYPD has begun issuing iPhones to its officers. The NYPD previously used Windows Lumia devices, but after Microsoft announced last year that it would stop updating the software those handsets were running, the department sought alternatives. Officers are now able to choose from Apple’s iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, and can use the devices to get information about calls they’re responding to, information on warrants, and real-time surveillance footage.
- Apple’s been quiet on the new product front, but that could change soon. According to a report this week, Apple will announce new hardware starting in March. It’s believed that the company’s March event will center on new iPads and could also include some new Mac releases. Apple hasn’t yet confirmed it’s planning a March press event.
- Apple last year agreed to acquire music-discovery company Shazam in a deal believed to be valued at $400 million. However, the deal still isn’t final and now the European Union’s competition watchdog has announced plans to review the acquisition. The European Commission didn’t say this week why it’s now stepping in, but decided to do so after EU country Austria asked the Commission to take a closer look. The move is even more surprising, considering it’s too small to trigger an automatic European Commission probe.
One more thing…Interested in getting a new iPhone battery after discovering yours isn’t working too well? You’ll need to wait. A Barclays poll released this week found that on average, Apple Store customers wait between two to four weeks to get a new battery for their iPhones due to widespread demand for replacements.