HomePod brings Apple's Siri into the living room

The messaging from Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller was clear: Some companies that have dabbled in the speaker market are doing a tremendous job creating simple, exquisite wireless audio experiences but with speakers that wouldn't fall under the category of "smart speakers" (Sonos); and there are others who've created devices that are excellent as in-home voice assistants but that lack the ability to play quality audio (Echo and Google Home).

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.

Unvieled at this week's WWDC17 conference, the new device uses personal digital-assistant Siri and core Apple services like Apple Music. Like other smart speakers, audio information isn't sent to Apple's cloud until this voice command has been issued, Apple said.

And though they're late to the game, excuse Apple's tardiness as they spent an inordinate amount of time (like they always do) developing a product that brought together the world of hi-res audio and smart speakers under the umbrella of one device-the HomePod.

The tech giant's new voice-activated speaker is set to "reinvent" music in our homes.

Both speakers come with a built-in smart assistant.

In the case of Apple's HomePod, though, you'll only have one choice: Apple Music.

The speaker can detect the length, breadth and other environmental things, and automatically adjust the sound quality and volume levels according to that environment.

The speaker has the "power to rock the house", according to Schiller, and the aim is to make HomePod a potent assistant for news, messages, weather, traffic, home controls and more. And while it's not an LCD display on the top, it still looks pretty good while animating.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether consumers embrace the HomePod in the same way they latched onto the iPod and iPhone. The Amazon Echo and Google Home are under $200, but Apple folks argue that the higher price tag is worth it.

Additionally, Apple deserves major kudos for recognizing that not everyone wants a white speaker. The HomePod will ship in December and is priced at $349.

Apple says it has more than a dozen speaker partners on board to support AirPlay 2, including Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Marantz, Libratone, and of course Apple's own Beats brand. And, with HomeKit integration similar to what's available on the iPhone, the user can ask Siri, via their HomePod to control connected devices in their home. That woofer plus an advanced algorithm that continuously analyzes the music and dynamically helps tunes the lower end frequencies that typically result in choppy, muddy noise, makes the new HomePod a speaker to rule them all.

HomePod will be available for $349 starting in December initially in Australia, the United Kingdom and the US. The HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s and later, running iOS 11.

  • Arturo Norris