Apple's HomePod speaker pumps up the volume on tech rivals

The speaker unveiled Monday is similar to devices from rivals, some of which have been on the market for years.

Part of that is because Apple has also brought something that resembles Mission Control to the iPad as well. Voiced by a reportedly new and improved Siri, the particular gadget will retail for $349, which is significantly more than its rivals-the Echo now retails for $179 and Google Home for $129-but its speakers are supposedly better than the rest, thus justifying the higher price tag. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

The Apple Homepod will ship to users in the US, UK and Australia this December.

Amazon has heavily dominated the field with its home speaker called Echo, which uses the digital assistant Alexa.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home.

"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

Apple made a number of announcements at its Worldwide Developers Conference Monday, but one feature may be a true life-saver. And it also may have just tipped Apple's hands about its plans for AR in the upcoming iPhone 8. The VR experience on the MacBook powered by some external graphics and HTC's Vive hardware is clearly among the best out there now, accentuated by the fact it's all happening out of a MacBook at the end of the day. Its entry into digital-music sales with iTunes, and into the smartphone market with the iPhone, upended those industries and gave them mass appeal. The latter feature also provides the ability to more efficiently optimize space on iOS devices, since Messages can be left in iCloud and removed from individual devices when space is required for other things. Both of these technologies should result in a savings of approximately 50% on photo and video storage both on iOS devices and in iCloud, although users will still be able to share using compatible formats. That money can immediately be used in retail stores that take Apple Pay or can be moved to a bank account. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

Tim Cook, CEO, speaks during Apple's annual world wide developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S. June 5, 2017. The souped-up new version "will support up to 18 core processors and include a graphic chipset called Radeon Vega", making it Apple's most powerful computer to date, according to the NYT.

Safari, Apple's web browser, seeks to make users' online experience smoother and less annoying. Users will be able to configure speakers inside of HomeKit, and multi-room streaming will also now be available in iOS 11, allowing users to play music to multiple speakers directly from the Music app, although it was unclear if the speakers will need to support AirPlay 2 to take advantage of this feature; Federeghi did note that tvOS 11 will add support for AirPlay 2 to the Apple TV, however.

"A big question mark for the new speaker, though, is whether Siri is good enough to power its own dedicated device". It will not actually block ads, though.

  • Carolyn Briggs