Apple unveils 'HomePod' speaker, first new product in years

Soerianto's latest app Let's Stack is a game about a duck construction worker

Apple has finally unveiled its answer to Amazon's and Google's smart speakers slash digital assistants - and it's called HomePod. What if you don't have Apple Music but want to use Siri for your own library?

Apple made the argument that the HomePod speaker combines the best of the new speaker idea out there.

The HomePod Is, Above All, A Music Product: The HomePod is built to be a great wireless streaming speaker. If you've been Googling flights to Reykjavik, it might suggest an article about Iceland.

How much will it cost? Then again, Apple is leaning heavily on the premium audio credentials, selling it as a quality speaker with smart capabilities, rather than a general smart speaker.

HomePod will go on sale in the United States in December for $349. In that way, it's like a very big AirPod. Inside is the same processor that powers the iPhone and an upward-facing 4-inch woofer. Inside is an array of seven beam-forming tweeter speakers and a larger subwoofer. Schiller said devices like the Amazon Echo have poor sound quality, and wifi speakers like Sonos don't have interactive voice assistants.

Yesterday's software and hardware announcements were, for the most part, in line with the rumors and expectations.

Apple's marketing chief, Phil Schiller, said on stage during the keynote that the speaker is powered by Siri intelligence, which he said had seen significant improvements and enhancements since its debut.

From trivia, timers, translations and news to sports, traffic, the weather and smart home tasks, Siri on the HomePod is a jack of all trades.

Expect a new Siri face that will proactively give you information, a flashlight that can be used as a safety light if you're running at night, and new high intensity interval training workouts, among other features. The A8 means the HomePod will be able to better predict when it hears its name and be able to perform real-time acoustic modeling that will shape the sound to fit the room it's in. Apple claims that the customers will not be using the voice commands without any experience equivalent to speaking with humans.

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.

So, if audio is so important to the HomePod - and will justify that whopping $349 price tag - how does it really sound?

Siri will now share its learned and personalized data across devices with end-to-end encryption - so that Apple doesn't know your preferences.

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPhone, which helped cement Apple's position as one of the most profitable and successful technology companies of all time. Despite the company's insistence that HomePod will sound wonderful, it all feels like too little too late to take on the growing smart speaker market.

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