Apple's New HomePod Speaker to Compete with Amazon Echo

Alain Brian
Juin 10, 2017

The smart speaker works by talking to an updated Siri that better understands music-related requests, Apple said during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. For instance you can voice-activate it with a simple "Hey Siri" using six microphones laid to pick up sound in all directions. Whether you care about a lot of them is not what I'm here to talk about, but I did want to at least highlight the HomePod, which is Apple's Google Home and Amazon Echo competitor. This means that Apple has placed an emphasis on audio quality, packing the speaker with an array of seven tweeters and a woofer as well as "spatial awareness" that detects its location in a room and adapts the output automatically. Amazon's Echo and Google Home don't sound as good as the HomePod does, according to early reviews.

The speakers, driven by artificial intelligence and voice-enabled assistants - such as Amazon's Alexa - have become a leading trend in the tech industry and Alexa now boasts support for more than 10,000 apps.

At Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled its latest hardware: HomePod.

Again, the difference, though, is Apple's focus on making the most high-end speaker they can that still has smarts. This always happens during a product announcement, and Apple's pricing is always a hot topic during these events. Take a look at the HomePod's product page and you'll get an idea: The focus is on sound and speaker specs first and foremost, with nods to Siri and Apple's HomeKit smart home platform tucked underneath. You need to connect the speakers to the internet, and they will send your queries to Google, Amazon or Apple servers respectively, and they will send an appropriate response back to the speaker. Synced directly with Siri and Apple Music, the powerful speaker will play whatever it is told to play. You'll be able to say, "Hey, Siri" to ask for information, set reminders, etc.

Apple is also wise to be leveraging its Music service, said Thomas Husson, another Forrester analyst. The Echos are quite functional and affordable, and are already established in the market as top-selling products.

HomePod will cost $349, which puts it in a more expensive market when compared with Amazon's Echo that runs for $179 Echo, while Google Home costs $129. About a year after Mr. Jobs's death, Apple hired Bill Stasior, an Amazon search executive, to oversee Siri.

HomePod, aided by Apple´s Siri digital assistant, will be priced at $349 when it begins shipping in December in the United States, Australia and Britain.

But for the most part the different layers of each track we heard (four in total) were well defined and crisp, with the vocals and music balanced well. Apple HomePod offers less flexibility, thanks to the closed ecosystem approach of Apple. What is that? It's Apple's approach to third-party support, right now, there isn't any.

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