Apple unveils VR features on Mac, new iPhone software

While it's significantly more expensive than Google Home ($130) or Amazon Echo ($180), the HomePod compares favorably to competing speakers like the Sonos 5 ($500) and perhaps to the Cortana-infused Harman Kardon speaker, which has yet to disclose a price. That's OK: The company is hoping that HomePod's audio performance, its ability to suggest great music through Apple Music, and its Siri-powered voice interface will set HomePod apart from the competition. Apple says HomePod is "spatially aware" and can respond as such.

Apple also announced during their presentation that Apple Music now has 27 million subscribers, up from the 20 million figure that they reported in December, according to Billboard. The integration with Siri just makes sense although, as it was pointed out by many spectators, the naming of the HomePod was a little bit underwhelming.

There's no firm date on when AppleTV users can stream The Man In The High Castle to their dystopic hearts' content; Apple CEO Tim Cook said only that it will happen "later this year". The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

The conference is typically devoted to software updates and this year, Apple released a series of new features and updates for the iPhone, the iPad, Mac and the Apple Watch - including an augmented-reality kit for developers aimed at making the iPhone "the largest AR platform in the world".

It wouldn't be the first time that Apple hopped on the bandwagon of a technology product popularized by a competitor.

Apple is expected to unveil new features for its Apple Watch as its Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off on Monday. One is that, at least anecdotally, most people still use their Echo (or Google Home) as a way to play music easily.

It was only a matter of time before the biggest voice in artificial intelligence joined the fight for smart speaker supremacy.

Our homes might already be filled with the chatter of Amazon Echos and Google Homes, but guess who's just knocked on the door? That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smarthphones, he said.

And Apple has some real advantages that Google and Amazon lack: a long track record of excellent hardware, a customer base that's accustomed to paying more, and over 500 retail stores worldwide where potential buyers will be able to see (and hear) the HomePod before buying.

Apple had plenty of other announcements.

Apple is poised to announce its own speaker at its annual conference for software programmers Monday.

Safari, Apple's web browser, seeks to make users' online experience smoother and less annoying. It will not block the ads themselves, though. The iPad Pro now comes in an all-new 10.5-inch variation in addition to the original 12.9-inch size. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

Yes, Apple followed the same naming tradition that it used for its iconic iPod, and more recently, its wireless Bluetooth AirPods. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

While the iPhone was largely absent from the announcements at WWDC, Apple did give a sneak peek into the future of the device with the unveiling of a new version of iOS, which also powers its iPads.

Ortutay reported from NY.

  • Arturo Norris