Apple's HomePod speaker pumps up the volume on tech rivals

Posted June 09, 2017

Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180 and Google sells its Home speaker for $130.

For Apple TV owners, the announcement of HomePod, the company's connected wireless home speaker, wasn't the big news out of this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The brains of the unit, Siri, is powered by an Apple A8 processor - the same as found in the older iPhone 6. HomePod will be released in December for $349, and it's meant to work with Apple's $10-per-month subscription music service, Apple Music. Apple Music, which hosts £9.99 a month, now offers 40 million tracks from two million artists.

Schiller had much less to say about HomePod's broader Siri smarts, although the product page on Apple's website hints that it can perform numerous smart home tasks that an Amazon Echo or Google Home can do. After all, the Amazon Echo is regarded in an entirely different gadget category, so it seems Apple has played it smart and demonstrated the strength of its new HomePod which could take down the Amazon Echo.

It's also hooked up to your Apple Music account, so out of the box the HomePod is smart enough to know your musical tastes and playlists. I, like others who I chatted with, feel like "Siri Speaker" is a more fitting title.

Following in Google's footsteps, Siri will also be able to translate and speak phrases from six languages, with more coming later, Apple said.

Apple "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight. The Homepod was just one of many things unveiled Monday.

Yet even as Apple showed off HomePod-which it saved for last during the more than two-hour presentation-the company seemed to deliberately undersell the device as an all-around home assistant. "HomePod, Apple Music and Siri deliver the best music experience in the home that streams ad-free directly to HomePod".

However, Apple AAPL, -0.98% stopped short of calling it a home assistant and thus a direct competitor to companies like Google Inc. The rapidly growing number of Alexa devices is encouraging developers to create "skills" - the smart speaker equivalent of apps - for Alexa. Do you plan to purchase one?

New features in iPhones and iPads include messages that sync to Apple servers in the cloud. iPhones will only keep the most recent messages on the device to save storage. Although Apple Watch has emerged as the leader among smartwatches, it hasn't become a smash hit like the iPhone.