Apple's HomePod "reinventing" listening to music at home

Apple's New HomePod vs. Amazon's Echo

The HomePod speaker is photographed in a a showroom during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference Monday in San Jose, Calif.

Apple has announced HomePod, its new wireless speaker and home assistant product which aims to rival Google Home and Amazon's Echo device. One element he's curious to see how Apple handles is the very particular consumer preferences around speakers and sound quality.

The resulting experience was hugely impressive - paired HomePods work together to fire balanced audio out into the room, having first detected each other's presence. Commands are picked up by an array of six microphones with echo cancellation allowing HomePod to pick up information when loud music is being played.

The specs of the HomePod certainly reinforce this idea - the Apple-designed sub woofer inside the speaker is paired with an A8 chip (from the iPhone 6). Referring to the speakers' mechanical details like its virtual surround sound, Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, said, "You don't have to know what any of that is; just know that it sounds incredible".

Apple is so confident in this one-two punch that they've slapped a $350 price tag on the sucker.

In fact, the AI assistant can learn a user's preference when they tell it, "Hey Siri, I like this song". The device costs £129 or $129, a lot less than the HomePod.

India pricing for new Apple iPad Pro and Mac lineup revealed
With a bigger screen, it can conveniently make room for a full-size onscreen keyboard; yet, its weight remains unchanged at 477g. The improvements reflect Apple's intentions for the iPad Pro to be interpreted as a true productivity-focused device.

However, Amazon's Alexa software has a wider range of skills on offer that enable it to link up with and control more third-party devices around the home. There is also a 12.9-inch model; both come with a slew of new productivity features that make them more appealing as laptop replacements.

Apple made its long-awaited debut into the smart home space at WWDC this week, announcing its $349 Apple HomePod connected speaker with Siri.

The smart features and Siri integration nearly felt like an afterthought, but they're definitely worth mentioning. It uses an anonymous Siri ID, too, so your searches aren't tracked back to you. To use the hands-free device, you speak a trigger phrase - "Hey Siri", "OK Google", "Alexa" - and then ask a question such as "what's the weather?" or make a request like "order a Lyft".

The tech giant confirmed the device would go on sale in December in the US, UK and Australia. At WWDC earlier this week, Apple introduced the HomePod, the iPhone makers answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. And, sure, Apple wants to capitalize on the excitement and opportunity that those companies have created. Though HomePod only supports Apple Music and nothing else. It's a speaker, and a powerful, high-performance one at that.

It's probably fair to say Google and Amazon are less interested in audio performance, though their speakers still sound decent. Nothing wrong with that approach at all.

And HomePod can do that - some of the time, and only with Apple services.

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