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article imageApple unveils HomePod, its Siri-powered smart speaker

By James Walker     Jun 6, 2017 in Technology
After months of rumours, Apple has officially launched its own smart speaker with Siri built in. Called HomePod, the company has sought to create a fully-fledged rival to Amazon's Echo and the Google Home. It's designed to work with Apple Music.
HomePod was formally announced by Apple during its WWDC 2017 developers conference keynote yesterday. It brings to an end the countless rumours over the past year that have revealed the company's work on creating an answer to the Amazon Echo.
The HomePod represents Apple's first major foray into the connected home. It's a standalone device that measures up at just under 7 inches tall. Available in space gray or white, it looks like a small cylindrical drum. While it's less eye-catching than the Echo or Google Home, it reflects Apple's overarching design language well and should easily blend in with most living spaces.
Apple has designed HomePod with the assumption that most buyers will already have an Apple Music subscription. The speaker is built to make the most of the 40 million songs available, featuring a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters and an Apple-designed subwoofer. The system can sense its location in the room and adjust the sound quality accordingly, allowing it to avoid echoes or direction issues caused by being placed in a corner or to one side.
Apple HomePod
Apple HomePod
Apple claims the HomePod offers "amazing audio" quality with "incredible" directional capabilities. Previous smart speakers have proved to have variable success at actually playing music. If Apple's marketing language is reflected in real-world performance, the company could be the first to create a smart speaker where the connected elements don't take precedence over the actual audio.
That isn't to say Apple has overlooked the smart features. The integrated Siri support lets you send messages, control your music, get news updates and manage other connected smart home devices using the HomePod. The entire network of products can be controlled through Apple's Home app for iOS. The company can now offer a complete connected ecosystem that's centred on a single device, putting it in a better position to rival Amazon and Google.
Apple HomePod
Apple HomePod
"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes," said Philip Schiller, Appleā€™s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home."
HomePod won't be launching until December. This makes its unveiling this week conspicuous as Apple doesn't usually announce devices until they're almost ready to ship. It's possible the increasing volume of rumours around HomePod's development have persuaded it to make it official earlier than intended. In its press release, the company appeared to allude to the various leaks of the past year, stating HomePod represents "years of hardware and software innovation."
Apple may also have felt pressured to confirm its intentions to enter the increasingly crowded connected home space. With Amazon's Echo so far the undisputed leader but Google Home quickly catching up, the company could be trying to convince its fans to wait for it to play catch-up before they splash money at its rivals. It will land just in time for the holiday season, potentially disrupting sales of the Echo and Home. Pricing will be set at $349 with initial availability being restricted to the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
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