Apple unveils 'HomePod' connected speaker at WWDC

In many ways, HomePod will be able to do the same things as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, including playing back podcasts, setting reminders, checking sports scores, translation and controlling internet-connected devices.

HomePod is a 7-inch speaker that has Apple's digital assistant built in. When you say "Hey Siri", it starts listening for your command or question.

"The entry of more players integrating AI and a range of smart solutions into speakers next year could drive [mainland] sales to a couple of million units from next year before recording sales of more than 10 million units per year by 2022", said Neil Shah, a partner at Counterpoint. But from Apple's presentation of the device, it sounds like it's hoping audio quality will be HomePod's big differentiator. Created to work with an Apple Music® subscription for access to over 40 million songs, HomePod provides deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music.

It'll be a while before the HomePod official goes on sale, but right now it has one clear edge over the competition: it's just a killer speaker.

"We have such a great portable music experience, but what about in our homes?" asked Tim Cook, CEO of Apple to the audience.

New features include person-to-person payment in Apple Pay, iMessage being synced across iOS and macOS, augmented reality support as well as a smarter virtual voice assistant Siri. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

Though some pundits might say Apple is late to the game in terms of home audio, the company debuted with much fanfare its new HomePod speaker featuring Siri voice control.

Apple is expected to announce plans this week to make its Siri voice assistant work with a larger variety of apps, but initial changes were expected to add just a small number of capabilities. You will be able to send a text with apple Messages, control the household lights and hook up with other connected devices through HomeKit. The speaker will sell for about $350 in December. That's probably how they will justify the higher price tag.

Chief among them: a Siri-enabled speaker called HomePod, a new product category for Apple.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released a year ago, were the first entrants in a promising market.

After all the talk about music, Apple covered the HomePod's abilities as a digital assistant.

A parade of executives followed Cook unto the stage and unveiled a series of updates to Apple's hardware, software and mobile applications, or apps, including iMac desktop computer, MacBook laptop machine, iPad, Apple Watch, iOS software operating system and App Store.

Apple earlier introduced a new version of its iPad Pro, as well as a raft of new software updates. Plus, the HomePod will connect directly to Apple Music, so you won't have to play music through another device, although we expect that will be possible as well.

  • Arturo Norris