Apple wants to rock the market with HomePod, faces challenges

At Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference held in San Jose on Monday morning, the iPhone giant announced HomePod, a 7-inch tall speaker for $349. Musically, the Apple HomePod did blow both Sonos Play:3 and Amazon Echo out of the water, as Engadget's Chris Velazco points out.

Apple's smart assistant Siri must improve if the new HomePod speaker is to rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, experts have said. This new breed of speaker presents a tantalizing future powered by voice, where computing is not tied to a screen. Amazon launched the Echo in 2014, and Google initiated shipping past year its competitor, Google Home. Apple said HomePods can pick up the commands from across the room with a 6-microphone array (compared to the Echo's 7 microphones and Home's 2 microphone). A cracking speaker that delivers a lovely sound, something which we are sure Apple would happily be compared to.

As a home assistant, HomePod is a great way to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather, or control smart home devices by simply asking Siri to turn on the lights, close the shades or activate a scene. It has a 4-inch woofer with a custom amplifier as well as seven beamform tweeters, each with individual drivers.

Apple lovers already tend to be "premium product buyers", and may not flinch at paying more for what they believe is a superior quality product, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau.

The small cylinder Mac Pro shaped HomePod features a large Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high frequency acoustics and powerful technologies built into the inners of the speaker to preserve the richness of the audio it is playing.

Schiller said the HomePod will be deeply integrated with the Apple Music streaming music service. Six microphones are built-in to pickup your voice from across the room, even while loud music is playing.

For now, it looks like Apple's HomePod does not offer any breakthroughs in comparison to other devices, and the company hasn't talked about support for other services besides Apple Music.

After months of anticipation Apple has unveiled HomePod, an all new wireless speaker that the company hopes will "reinvent home music".

The number of devices that will be able to integrate an assistant is also not the most important thing in the overall experience.

During the keynote, Apple was much more intentional with how it described Siri beyond voice. Interestingly, Sonos was absent from the list of early speaker partners. It remains to be seen whether the HomePod's audio quality is as good as advertised, but at least among the Echo product family, sound quality is definitely a secondary feature. Google Home and Amazon Echo have certainly jumped out to a headstart in this category, but that just means Apple has had a chance to sit back and watch the reaction in order to release its own version with hopefully less issues and an emphasis in key areas. BBC's Dave Lee writes in his review, "Off-camera demonstration of Apple's new HomePad speaker confirmed what the company promised on stage: it sounds terrific".

For now, the HomePod is not coming to India - at least not this year - so you'll need to get it from the USA for $349 if you really want one of these gadgets that are to be a sort of iPod for the whole home. "HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a lovely speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home".

  • Zachary Reyes