Published: Fri, June 09, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

Siri in a speaker, and more from Apple

Siri in a speaker, and more from Apple

But at US$349 (S$480) in the US, the HomePod is almost twice as expensive as the Echo (US$179.99) and three times the price of the Google Home (US$109). Echo's Alexa, Google Home, and to a lesser degree, Microsoft's Cortana, as well as a couple other less adept in-home digital assistants, have been finding their way into customer's lives at a fairly high rate of adoption. It has seven small "tweeter" speakers in a ring arranged at the bottom of the unit and features in the middle a large 4-inch woofer.

Mr. Cook also used the Apple keynote to show off new iPad and Mac computer models, as well as provide glimpses at coming versions of the software powering the technology titan's devices.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled its long-rumored entry into the smart assistant speaker market on Monday.

In a blog post Technalysis Research founder Bob O'Donnell depicted Apple's latest product news as an affirmation that the company has not fallen behind competitors and is working to take advantage of potentially exciting new technologies.

Apple will be saving some insights into HomePod for later this year when it is expected to unveil a tenth-anniversary edition of the iPhone.

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Apple's greed may also be a limiting factor. The HomePod will be available only from December starting in the US, Britain and Australia, before reaching the rest of the world next year. Better hope you're using Apple's calendar application.

The new HomePod works smoothly with your Apple Music subscriptions and it gives you an instant access to over 40 million individual songs.

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Granted, the verdict on whether the HomePod is the ultimate speaker won't come until the masses actually get their hands on it in December.

It begs the question: Is Apple positioning the HomePod as a piece of audio gear because it knows it doesn't have the chops right now to compete on the same level as Amazon and Google in the smart device game?

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Popular for its wireless speakers well before Siri was a glimmer in Apple's eye, Sonos is selling two of its Play:1 Wireless Smart Speakers for $348. Pricier than the Google Home at $129 and Amazon Echo at $180, but the speaker quality may justify the higher price.

But that's not what makes smart speakers like HomePod so compelling, is it? You'll also be able to control HomeKit enabled smart home products by voice.

The device is equipped with six different microphones so that users can use their voices to interact with the device fluently and effectively "even while loud music is playing", according to Apple. For instance, if a user asks "Hey Siri, who's the guitarist in this?" the AI will search the desired information and relay it to the user. For that price, you could pick up a Sonos speaker and a couple of Echo Dots - and still have some cash left over for a nice dinner, to boot.

And, like the other smart speakers, the HomePod can link up with smart devices in the home, such as connected light bulbs, so a user can control them with a spoken command, like switching them on or off. To do so, it supports over 30 streaming services including Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and dozens more. This device effectively turns any apartment into a smart home with a few upgrades to appliances, or a smart home into a brilliant one.

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