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June 6, 2017

Apple HomePod revealed as rival to Amazon Echo & Google Home

Apple's HomePod smart speaker has been delivered in competition with rivals Amazon & Google, using Siri voice assistant to work with Apple Music.

By Hannah Williams

Apple has elevated Siri from the phone to the home with the launch of its new HomePod smart speaker, unveiled at WWDC 2017.

The new Apple HomePod appears to be the technology company’s own version of Amazon Echo and Google Home, with similar voice assistant features to Amazon’s Alexa.

Although Apple has had Siri on its iPhones for years, for it to appear in smart home speakers stands as the company’s first move of developing a new technology to meet customer demand.

Geoff Blaber, VP Research Americas, CCS Insight said: “It is little surprise that Apple has decided to launch a smart speaker. It can’t afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people’s homes to Amazon, Google and others as access to content, information and search becomes pervasive and less dependent on the smartphone.”

HomePod is designed to work with an Apple Music subscription, providing access to over 40 million songs. It features spatial awareness which enables it to sense its surroundings and adjust the audio automatically.

Read more: Make your own Echo as Amazon releases Raspeberry Pi Alexa guide

It also includes a large Apple-designed woofer for deep bass, a selection of seven tweeters that offer high-frequency acoustics with directional control and powerful technologies.

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.

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In comparison to Amazon’s Alexa, users may notice Siri’s lack of capabilities as wider features such as being able to make orders using voice control have not yet been added.

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

Blaber said: “Apple’s HomePod speaker casts fresh focus on Siri and will draw inevitable comparisons with the AI smarts of Amazon, Baidu, Google and others. This is the product that will measure Apple’s progress and whether its stance on privacy hinders its machine learning endeavours.

“As the iPhone reaches a point of near saturation in mature markets and replacement rates continue to slow, Apple must find new ways to lock in users. Adding a smart speaker into people’s homes creates a further touch point for consumers and a valuable gateway to Apple services. With over 165 million subscriptions to Apple services and quarterly revenue of $7 billion, this is an important priority for growth.”

HomePod will be made publicly available from December 2017 in the US, UK and Australia for $349.

 

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