Apple unveils HomePod smart speaker

The Latest: Apple to showcase new features for its gadgets

New Smart Speaker Expected as Apple Kicks Off Conference

Apple's smart assistant Siri must improve if the new HomePod speaker is to rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, experts have said.

At WWDC, Apple has announced a new HomePod speaker which is powered by an Apple A8 chip promised to make it sound better than any average speaker.

Apple is taking on Google Home and the Amazon Echo with its Siri sporting HomePod smart speaker, revealed at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017.

Apple's speaker, called HomePod, emphasises the enjoyment of music and looks like a wide can with curved edges. The Cupertino giant is emphasising on HomePod's sound quality marketing it more of a smart speaker than just an assistant. Whereas Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google's Home speaker goes for $130.

It also gives Apple the justification to price the HomePod as high as it is.

The company details that it uses spatial awareness to work out its location and automatically adjust the audio depending on where it is in the room. "Apple is smart to position it as music centric rather than yet another smart speaker or just a home for a digital assistant", Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research, told CNET.

HomePod's voice control features are delivered using six microphones which also in support of Apple Music users can respond with "Hey Siri, I like this song", and other responses.

However, Apple may soon change this with expected plans to pair Siri with a wider range of apps, according to Reuters.

Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant are going to be smarter, more clever and more intuitive than anything Apple puts into the HomePod. It's back in San Jose for the first time in 15 years. This makes the HomePod considerably more expensive than the standard cost of an Echo or Google Home Device.

In the end, the key difference is the music angle Apple is playing.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products.

Apple has given Siri new male and female voices, described as more natural and expressive, and added abilities such as translating English phrases into Chinese, French, German, Italian or Spanish. As The New York Times noted, this year's conference was particularly heavy on Apple hardware announcements, but nonetheless there were some exciting updates for Apple's software products.

Monday's launch was also unusual by Apple standards.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads, meanwhile, include marginal improvements such as syncing messages to Apple servers in the cloud, saving storage space on phones and tablets.

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