Apple unveils HomePod, a wireless speaker that doubles as a home assistant

For Apple TV owners, the announcement of HomePod, the company's connected wireless home speaker, wasn't the big news out of this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Apple's new HomePod speaker may be music to the ears of its loyal fans, but how much it can crank up volume in the smart speaker market remains to be heard.

HomePod uses an Apple-designed upwards firing 102mm woofer and a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters.

It also has a "Musicologist" feature for streaming Apple Music through commands barked at Siri, as well as being able to answer queries about the song playing, such as 'who is the guitarist?' and so on.

With more and more companies betting on voice and visual search being the next frontier, the HomePod positions Apple as a major player in a burgeoning category.

The HomePod will hit the market in December in the USA, U.K., and Australia for $349.

Analysts said the smart home speaker market is ripe for Apple. If the track you wanted was not in your collection, she could go to the Amazon shopping site, buy it and download it. Echo has been available in the United States and Europe for two years now, for $180 ('12,000) and while Amazon is not saying anything officially, there are indications that Echo might be launched in India later this year after the company has put in place enough local applications.

The Siri-controlled device will aim to combine listening to music at home with many other functions, according to Cook. All information is recorded locally on the device and sent to Apple servers encrypted using an anonymously Siri identifier. Some industry-watchers have also predicted Apple will announce hardware similar to Amazon's Echo device for the home, which has been a hot-seller recently.

More than just an impressive home speaker, HomePod is a smart assistant in its own right, with its Siri centre letting you make audio commands to perform tasks such as checking the weather, getting traffic alerts and set reminders. That makes it arguably the smartest speaker you can buy, but it remains to be seen whether or not that makes it the best. It has "spatial awareness" to detect where it's located a room and adjust the sound accordingly.

Internally, the speaker will be powered by an Apple A8 chip, which was previously used in the iPhone 6 series and the current-generation Apple TV. And Apple Pencil works even better with them, as there's only a 20-millisecond latency. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers.

Amazon just unveiled a version of Echo with a camera, touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities.

In a blog post Technalysis Research founder Bob O'Donnell depicted Apple's latest product news as an affirmation that the company has not fallen behind competitors and is working to take advantage of potentially exciting new technologies. But the real selling point, as far as Apple is concerned, is the HomePod's sound quality.

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