Sunday, 25 June, 2017

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Johanna Francis | 08 June, 2017, 05:49

This year however, the talk also included the first look at the new HomePod, Apple's oddly named smart speaker.

"Just like we did with portable music, we want to reinvent home music", Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the Worldwide Developers Conference, where HomePod was unveiled, becoming Apple's first new device since the release of the Apple Watch in 2015. The functionality is similar to that of existing home speakers such as Amazon Echo or Google Home. Given that Siri is neither as connected as Alexa nor as intelligent as Google Assistant, that seems like a wise move, one that lets Apple play to its strengths in product engineering.

The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014.

HomePod costs $US349 to start, it launches this December, and it's only available in the US, UK, and Australia at launch.

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

Apple has finally jumped into the home speaker market; however, they do claim that their new offering, delivers better sound quality than their competitors, analysts claim it will also challenge Sonos. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year. The Echo, Home, and even the Microsoft Cortana already have these functions and are very common throughout American households.

HomePod doesn't have a display, but when you say "Hey Siri" to invoke Apple's assistant, the top of the device lights up. As it's powered by Siri, it is still possible to have random questions answered. It will work closely with your Apple Music subscription, and will have access to your playlists and a vast 40 million music library, to pull in more recommendations based on listening preferences. Daryanani said Apple may also announce an iPad Pro with a faster processor in an attempt to revive its long-slumping tablet sales. Apple says that "only after "Hey Siri" is recognised locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier".

The company is also launching new models of both the iPad and the Mac computer.

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