November 19 2017

Apple unveils an Amazon Echo competitor

November 19 2017, 06:52 | Geraldine Moore

The Latest: New speaker? Apple hopped on bandwagon before

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

The device is compatible with iPhone 5s and later, running iOS 11.

Apple also unveiled the high-end iMac Pro for power users at its annual conference for software programmers Monday.

However, the star of the event was the HomePod.

While Apple was an early entry into voice assistants with the introduction of Siri in 2011, voice assistants from Amazon and Google have largely surpassed Apple with the launch of Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers.

Apple was expected to announce a smart speaker, a market that Amazon - with its sleeper hit, the Echo - and the later Google Home, powered by Assistant - now dominate, given them an integral place in users' lives. And something like the Echo is far more than just a speaker, meant to be more like friendly computer personal assistant than a simple jukebox, allowing you to shop, control devices, make to-do lists and check the weather, all with just your voice.

People interact with the digital assistants on those speakers more frequently than on their phones, according to Technalysis Research of Foster City.

The Cupertino company described the 7in device, which comes in white and "space grey", as a "breakthrough home speaker" created to "rock the house".

"This is a smart move because Siri is not that bright and is easily outperformed by Google Assistant while being on a par with Amazon's Alexa". Safari, Apple's web browser, will allow users to automatically block auto-play videos by detecting videos that shouldn't be playing when you open a webpage to read an article, for example. This latter market is where Apple has so far focused its marketing, as reflected by the title of its introductory press release: "HomePod reinvents music in the home".

The HomePod has seven beam forming tweeters and an upward- facing 10.2cm woofer for improved audio output, said Apple. Pricier than the Google Home at $129 and Amazon Echo at $180, but the speaker quality may justify the higher price.

To live up to that bold claim Apple revealed some of the specs that make it such a powerful device.

Analysts said they will also be looking for clues from the company on its future plans, especially in augmented reality. The HomePod is going to be a lot more spendy, and it won't be available for quite some time.

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