Take that, Alexa

It’s Here: Apple’s First Smart Speaker, the HomePod

June 5, 2017 Tech By

At today’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced its take on the smart speaker — it’s called HomePod. The 7-inch tall speaker is integrated with Siri, so you’ll be able to give it voice commands (“Hey, Siri”). You’ll be able to set timers, ask simple questions, send iMessages and control your smart home devices, but, most importantly, you’ll be able to to play music. That said, this isn’t designed as a “not great” speaker, like the Amazon Echo. Apple’s goal with HomePod is to take on bigger fish, like Sonos.

Apple’s speaker features seven tweeters and a four-inch upward-facing subwoofer. The speaker gets its “smarts” from Apple’s A8 processor, the same one that’s used in the iPhone, and will be able to hear “Hey, Siri” accurately with its six built-in microphones. It will use spatial awareness technology — just like Sonos — that optimizes audio to a given room.

The HomePod comes to the smart speaker market long after Amazon’s and Google’s offerings, and it’s unclear if the Cupertino company entered the market too late. Also, it’ll only be compatible with an Apple Music subscription, from the start at least. However, at WWDC, Apple also announced AirPlay 2, an update to HomeKit that brings speaker support to any device running iOS 11 — with your iPhone, you’ll be able to control multi-room wireless speakers by the likes of Bose, Devialet, Naim and Bang & Olufsen. If HomePod can tap into the home wi-fi speakers you already own, that could be the icing on the cake for people haven’t yet bought an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Apple’s HomePod will be available in White and Space Grey for $350 — shipping this December. It’s not yet available for preorder yet.

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