Apple HomePod revealed as rival to Amazon Echo & Google Home

At $349 (£240.23), Homepod will be more expensive than Google Home and Amazon Echo, but cheaper than the Sonos Play 5.

Apple Inc.'s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, as usual, offered plenty of announcements for consumers, including a Siri-enabled smart speaker (HomePod), the company's entry into the augmented reality space with the launch of ARkit, and the introduction of a more powerful Mac lineup focused on enhanced graphics. The Apple Speaker is focused on music first, not Siri. While many experts believe that Amazon's product is now stronger than Apple's (especially its activation command) and more competitively priced, it may not take long for Apple to add features and improve its Home Pod.

Created to be optimised when used with an Apple Music subscription, Apple says HomePod can "provide deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music."By saying things "Hey Siri, I like this song", HomePod will work to learn the musical preferences of a user (including genres, moods and playlists) and music tastes shared across devices".

Apple announced that Siri will now use deep learning to understand the user's tone as well so that it can identify the nature of the request.

"We want to reinvent home music", Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the company's WWDC keynote. For HomePod it's Siri, and for Amazon Echo it's Alexa. Competitor Google's home assistant achieved a 10% market share.

Both speakers come with a built-in smart assistant.

More than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

But Apple is very blunt about its intentions here: It wants people to see the HomePod as a quality speaker first, with Siri as added value on top.

"I'm no audio expert, so I won't even pretend I can go into all the reasons why the HomePod sounds so good", Business Insider's Steve Kovach wrote. Google, meanwhile, previewed new speaker features such as hands-free phone calling during its software conference last month. This is about a digital assistant.

The money can be stored on a virtual card and used with Apple Pay, which Apple expects will be accepted in 50 percent of US retailers by the end of the year.

It did include the new ARkit, which Hall believes is a sign that Apple is going ahead with an "all-in AR effort" that 3D scanning modules on the upcoming smartphone would likely support.

HomePod is also set up to be a home assistant, to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather, or control smart home devices by simply asking Siri.

Apple's senior vice-president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demonstrated the company's AR capabilities by placing a virtual coffee cup, lamp and vase onto a real table. In the past, Apple has begun accepting pre-orders on its website for new devices like the iPhone 7 one week before they arrive in stores.

Among the new features of iOS 11 is the ability to make person-to-person payments through Apple's messaging app, thanks to new integration with the Apple Pay system. Yet what we know so far may just well make Apple's offering the most intelligent voice-activated speaker in the marketplace.

  • Arturo Norris