HomePod: New Intelligent Home Speakers From Apple

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HomePod: New Intelligent Home Speakers From Apple

The seven inch speaker will cost $349, but won't be available until December.

Apple's new HomePod speaker may be music to the ears of its loyal fans, but how much it can crank up volume in the smart speaker market remains to be heard.

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

Apple will later this year release a "HomePod" music-centric smart home speaker, challenging a market now dominated by Amazon and Google in its latest move to weave deeper into people's lives. During its onstage announcement, Siri wasn't even mentioned until halfway through the HomePod's unveiling.

HomePod is a pill shaped home speaker that is more than just a speaker, with an A8 chip and 7 beam-forming tweeters along with a thick 4inch woofer, which delivers a powerful yet clean bass without distortion. But it's a lot cheaper than the iPhone, which starts at $649 and is now the main way people access Siri. It's obviously compatible with Apple Music, and also works with Siri, accessible via a six-microphone array - definitely helpful not only for requests but also to ask questions about what is now playing: "Siri, who wrote this song?"

However, letting Amazon blanket the mass market with $49 Echo Dots does not mean Apple is ceding the virtual assistant market to Amazon. At price point alone, Amazon offers a broad selection of options from the $49.99 Echo Dot to the upcoming $229 touchscreen-powered Echo Show.

One thing that was weird about Apple's WWDC HomePod pitch was it's emphasis on sound quality. Indeed, its Echo speaker will have 70.6% of users this year.

Apple "can't afford to yield valuable real estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight.

Mr Frank Gillett, principal analyst at research firm Forrester Research, said: "Home speaker devices have become an important host for virtual assistants like Siri".

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether consumers embrace the HomePod in the same way they latched onto the iPod and iPhone. Now Amazon's new app lets Prime members search and browse Amazon products and make purchases directly through their Fire TV remote, according to TechCrunch.

Like the Echo and Home, Apple's HomePod not only plays music with a voice command, but can also answer users' questions and provide information like news, weather updates and sports scores. At the moment, Siri lacks the ability and ecosystem needed to go head to head with Alexa in a way that would meet Apple's ambitions.

After months of rumors, Apple finally introduced a wireless streaming speaker called HomePod this week, their first new hardware product since the Apple Watch debuted in 2015.

Analysts are yet to be convinced that HomePod will rock the smart speaker market the way iPhones came to rule the smartphone world and iPods dominated MP3 players.

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