Apple Launches HomePod Speaker

Apple Launches HomePod Speaker

Just like an eagerly-awaited blockbuster needs an exciting action sequence in the opening few minutes to keep viewers hooked, the pressure was on Apple to make a big announcement at the start of its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. The company certainly didn’t disappoint, with confirmation of its own smart speaker system named Apple HomePod.

What is Apple HomePod?

A voice-activated loudspeaker powered by its virtual assistant Siri, the expectation pre-launch was that the HomePod would be Apple’s answer to Google Home or the Amazon Echo. It has a cylindrical design which is just under seven inches high and is minimalist in presentation. The HomePod comes in black or white, is wrapped in mesh and the Siri wave appears on the flattened top when you say ‘Hey Siri’.

Why’s it special?

Just like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can ask queries of your HomePod or have it command smart home gadgets. You can set reminders or timers or find out the latest news, sports or traffic reports. However, Apple executives played down talk of the HomePod as a direct competitor to Google or Amazon at the WWDC 2017 keynote. The device has been primarily pitched as a music player and the sound quality has been promoted as perhaps its top feature.

Apple’s A8 processor, described by the company as ‘the biggest brain inside of a speaker’, controls the sound system, while there is also a 4-inch woofer for bass control. A custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters also allows the sound to fill a room multi-directionally so that it will cover the whole of a room when placed in the middle. However, if it is put in the corner, it will recalibrate itself and spread the sound away from the wall. If two HomePods are used, they will act as stereo speakers.

Drawbacks?

One issue at the moment is that the integration only works for Apple Music, and anyone who prefers a different service, such as Spotify, will not be able to use its voice commands. In this scenario, the HomePod would effectively just work like an expensive bluetooth speaker, with the cost announced by Apple coming in at $349. Siri also lags far behind Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa when it comes to smart digital assistants.

HomePod Speaker Launch date

Apple HomePod is set to go on sale in the US and UK in December and is set to take its place in the market alongside other smart sound systems from Google and Amazon. It could spell more trouble for companies such as Sonos, Bose and Ultimate Ears, who will realise that they have to do far more than just produce great music systems, and it will be intriguing to see what they can offer in response.