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

Angelica Greene
June 6, 2017

HomePod, at $349, sells for a lot more than Amazon's ($180 to $220) or Google's ($109 to $129) home talker.

Apple is launching a smart home speaker called HomePod to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, the company revealed at its annual worldwide developer conference.

Both Amazon.com Inc. and Google parent company Alphabet Inc. most likely sell their home speakers and other hardware at a loss or perhaps a small profit. Chief among these new skills are new translation capabilities, more natural-sounding vocal tones and proactive "Siri Intelligence" that'll aim to provide you with content relevant to your interests before you even think to ask for it. Pulling music from the Apple library, the speaker was presented as being able to recognize its placement and direct rich audio sound into the room. Siri will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house.

Imagine what Apple could do if it didn't mind losing money on one product like a home speaker or from potential future products like an Apple auto or glasses that mix the virtual world with reality like the Pokemon Go game.

Apple's been fairly quiet lately when it comes to the news cycle, unless you count CEO Tim Cook's recent admonishment of the POTUS-along with just about every other Silicon Valley company-for pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. Samsung and Google already have VR systems centered on their smartphones.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads, meanwhile, include marginal improvements such as syncing messages to Apple servers in the cloud, saving storage space on phones and tablets.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest operating system for Mac computers. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations. Called High Sierra, it recognizes more faces automatically, which should make it easier to organize photos, and will offer more photo editing tools.

There were also a couple of updates to Apple's web browser, Safari, including a speed boost that makes it, according to Apple, the fastest ever desktop browser. It will not block the ads themselves, though.

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". Yet it isn't as bulky as the 12.9-inch model.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a better camera - the same one found in the iPhone 7 - along with more storage, a better display and faster refreshing of moving images. But it's a lot cheaper than the iPhone, which starts at US$649 (RM2,762) and is now the main way people access Siri. As a music-playing device, it will also be a challenger to Sonos, whose wifi-controlled speakers are used by many smartphone users for home entertainment.

The company's TV app is also adding Amazon and its Prime Video service later this year for the first time.

Other reports by GizPress

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