HomePod smart speaker will totally rock (and control) your house

Apple’s upcoming HomePod smart speaker will “reinvent the way
we enjoy music in the home,” says Apple exec Phil Schiller, who
offered a sneak peek at the product today.

Calling
it a “breakthrough home speaker,” he outlined how the 7-inch
wireless speaker will work seamlessly with Apple Music — and
totally rock the house, while also giving you a way to

control

your house.

The $349 speaker, coming this fall, will pump out pristine
audio thanks to a seven-tweeter array and a 4-inch woofer.
HomePod’s “spatial awareness” capability will let the smart
speaker “read” its environment, then sculpt the audio to
deliver the best possible sound (a feature found in many
high-end audio devices). You can also gang up two HomePods for
even better sound, assuming your credit card isn’t maxed out.

HomePod smart speaker works with HomeKit

HomeKit compatibility will turn the HomePod into a smart home hub.HomeKit compatibility will turn
the HomePod into a smart home hub.
Photo: Apple


While Apple stressed the smart
speaker’s audio capabilities during the big reveal at today’s
Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, HomePod will also work
as a sorely needed home-automation hub for HomeKit devices.

With
Siri built in, you’ll be able to ask HomePod to play a certain
song or serve up recommendations you might like. Perhaps more
importantly, the HomePod will also serve as a smart assistant,
able to read messages and reminders, play podcasts, control
HomeKit devices and perform other useful functions.


The smart
speaker will become the always-listening home-automation hub
that’s been missing from Apple’s product lineup.

HomePod versus Amazon Echo and Google Home


When the
HomePod hits the market later this year, it will be years
behind the competition. The Amazon Echo launched in 2014 and
has already spun off other Alexa-powered devices, including the
tiny Echo Dot and the touchscreen-packing
Echo Show
. Google Home launched last year. Sales numbers
for the two devices remain secret, although
Amazon reportedly has sold more than 11 million Echo
speakers
so far.

Both Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers boast features that
could prove tough for Apple to top, at least at first if Siri’s
serious weaknesses don’t get ironed out.

The Alexa Skills Kit lets developers develop voice apps called
“skills” that make Amazon’s smart speakers useful and fun. With

more than 10,000 skills
already coded, Alexa can do
everything from turning on smart lights
to teaching you how to make 12,000
cocktails
.


Google Home
harnesses the awesome power of the world’s
smartest search engine, serving up data via Google Assistant.

Phil Schiller gives the world a sneak peek at the HomePod during WWDC 2017.Phil Schiller gives the world a
sneak peek at the HomePod during WWDC 2017.
Photo: Apple

Siri’s current shortcomings might hobble the HomePod, but Apple
is promising serious upgrades to its smart assistant in iOS 11.

It’s a vital time for Apple to get into the smart speaker
space:
Voice-activated AI interfaces are quickly gaining a
foothold
in our everyday lives, with research firm
eMarketer predicting
more than 35 million people in the U.S.
will bark out a
command to an AI assistant at least once a month this year —
double the number from 2016.

The lack of a Siri smart
speaker gave Amazon time to lock in a solid user base, but this
could be yet another example of Apple waiting until the time is
right to launch a superior product.

Will Apple fans balk at the HomePod’s $349 price tag? Maybe the
audio quality — and the Apple ecosystem integration — will be
so much better that they’ll ignore the pricing differential
between HomePod and the $179 Amazon Echo.

Apple is also facing off against makers of multi-room wireless
speaker systems made
by the likes of Sonos
and great-sounding portable Bluetooth
speakers like Ultimate
Ears’ UE Megaboom
, which retails at $299. (Design-wise, the
HomePod bears more than a passing resemblance to
UE’s cute little Wonderboom speaker
.)

HomePod colors and shipping date

The HomePod will come in white or space gray. It will ship in
December to consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom
and Australia, Apple said, with other markets to follow in
2018.




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