nsucurrent.com March 22, 2018

Meet Apple's Echo Rival, Homepod

06 June 2017, 06:22 | Ricardo Garza

But there have been other market categories where Apple hasn't been first or best. Just ask any iPhone user - whether it's your stepmom, your roommate, or your Lyft driver, the feature they like to complain about most is nearly invariably Siri.

The $349 HomePod looks to provide an alternative to high-end speakers from competitors such as Bose and Sonos as well as the cheaper home hubs from its fellow tech giants.

Apple's HomePod will come in grey, white and black.

This is largely down to the HomePod's compatibility with HomeKit, Apple's software platform that makes everyday domestic appliances work with iOS devices. It has an Apple A8 Chip inside that will intelligently sculpt sound to match the environment it's in.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought. The speaker will use an array of six microphones for voice control via Siri, and seven tweeters for audio playback.

"Apple is a company that deeply cares about music and wants to deliver an audio experience in the home", Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg's Emily Chang.

The HomePod will be available starting in December, initially in the USA, the United Kingdom, and Australia. During Jobs' last decade, Apple introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad - all huge commercial successes that both reshaped daily life and swamped previous digital music players, smartphones and tablets.

At the event, Apple also announced updates to its mobile operating system, iOS, and its Mac operating system.

More than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

Apple revealed a new smart speaker device, the HomePod, at WWDC. The most popular paid apps are usually games. There's also a "virtual surround sound" feature that helps the small speaker fill up a room with your sick jams.

Sources state that while the device will be shown off at WWDC, it won't actually ship to customers until later on in 2017.

In typical Apple fashion, the HomePod was pitched at solving the problem of preexisting products. It will come in December starting at about $5,000.

The Amazon Echo is powered by Alexa, an AI core built on AWS' cloud infrastructure.

Because the HomePod boasts Siri as its smart virtual assistant, it can talk about a range of topics, from sports to news to movies and more.

Google Now has been part of the company's ecosystem for a while now, but it's now been upgraded to become the Google assistant. It's created to respond in a natural, conversational manner to voice queries, and is also powered by cloud-based AI technology.

For example, if you received a message that asks "How far away are you?" from a friend, Siri will now use something called "on-device learning" that will suggest things like responding with your location or a calendar location. This is what is rumoured to be underpinning Apple's smart assistant product. It has multi-channel echo cancellation, real-time acoustic modeling and more.

Thoughts about HomePod? Do you think you'll get one? One is that, at least anecdotally, most people still use their Echo (or Google Home) as a way to play music easily. It's shorter and fatter, with a rounded base and a slanted top. You'll notice the difference in things like inflection and the way that the assistant pronounces long sentences.

In its current incarnation, Apple's HomeKit system is software only.

The price is quite a jump from Google's $129 Home and Amazon's $180 full-sized Echo.

What form this hardware will take, if it exists at all, is still unknown. Apple is yet to reveal what it will cost in the United Kingdom, but we expect to see it price around £300.

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