Apple confirms release of HomePod - the 'smartest speaker on offer'

Apple has joined the market for voice-activated home speakers, previewing at its annual developers conference a 7-inch device powered by its virtual assistant software Siri. Google, at its own developers conference, announced that its Google Home will work with more devices, thanks to a Bluetooth connection, as well as even deeper integration with its own services. You can activate it with a wake word-"Hey Siri"-and ask an artificially intelligent assistant, Siri, to play music".

Cook also hinted that Apple will announce "a lot more about tvOS later this year".

The HomePod will use its internal microphones to pick up voice commands and uses the same processor chip as the iPhone to pump out "spatially aware" sound, Apple said.

Apple also offered some hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, including so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has stressed the importance of Apple's services business, predicting it will double in size by 2021.

The speaker, in White and Space Gray, is being worked on for December shipping times in the US, UK and Australia for $349 or local equivalents. Shipments of intelligent home speakers surged almost 600% year-over-year to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter, with Amazon taking about 88% share and Google 10%, according to consultant Strategy Analytics. Speakers can detect when the HomePod placed against the wall and they adjust their sound output according to it so that the sound is spread equally into the wide area of the room, instead of just muffled against the wall. But it's a lot cheaper than the iPhone, which starts at $649 and is now the main way people access Siri.

A new "high efficiency" photo format will replace the widely used JPEG standard.

The new version of MacOS, which powers Apple's desktops and laptop computers will also likely be demonstrated.

"Apple is smart to frame the HomePod as a music-centric and audio-centric device rather than just another smart speaker or another home for Siri", said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson.

Coming this autumn, iOS 11 brings a range of new features to iPhones and iPads, including a new Do Not Disturb mode to help drivers keep their attention on the road.

As a smart speaker, it has full ability using Siri to control any HomeKit-connected device to control lights, scenes, temperature and more.

  • Zachary Reyes