WWDC 2017: Apple HomePod, Siri-powered smart speaker, promises fantastic sound quality

Alain Brian
Juin 6, 2017

Hot on the heels of rumors that Apple would release their own AI speaker, similar to Amazon's Echo and Google Home, Apple officially announces the HomePod speaker during its keynote kicking off WWDC today. "Hey Siri", brings the speaker to life and then you can ask it to play music. It's a fair bit costlier than the $179 Echo, but Apple has the advantage of years of experience perfecting the Siri voice assistant that launched in 2011. That makes it three times more expensive than Google Home and about twice the price of the Amazon Echo. The tech giant says the speaker produces a high-quality sound that puts it on par with "un-smart" home music systems like Sonos. It's no surprise, but there's integration with the Apple Music online subscription.

As for HomePod, Apple says that while the speaker's always listening, nothing will be sent to Apple's servers until you say, "Hey, Siri". It also needs to have "spatial awareness" to make the music sound good no matter the room size.

Siri has will also become a "musicologist", learning users' music preferences and answering questions like "who is the drummer?". Rather than exclusively competing with products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, Apple is positioning HomePod as a hybrid product that does more.

It will cost US$349 and ship in December to the US, Britain and Australia.

Inside the mesh-wrapped 18cm cylinder is Apple's A8 processor - the same silicon powerplant as the iPhone 6 series - atop an array of speakers and microphones. The smart assistant has been selling well ever since and has inspired a host of lookalikes and copies, most notably, the Google Home.

Apple unveiled new hardware, including a Siri-powered speaker, and previewed upcoming iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch features as the company's Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off Monday.

In this way, the HomePod can control smart home devices by "asking" Siri to turn on the lights, close the curtains or turn the alarm on.

They will be able to check sports scores, set alarms, timers and reminders, and control compatible smart devices - all features that were previously debuted by Amazon and Google.

On the technological side, Apple's virtual demonstration of why HomePod is a superior speaker was all about the device's ability to recognize the space it was filling.

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