November 19 2017

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

November 19 2017, 06:57 | Geraldine Moore

Image Bob Al-Greene Mashable

Image Bob Al-Greene  Mashable

Different from a giant media player with a scroll wheel and large hard drive - which you might initially think it was - the Apple HomePod is a wireless speaker that uses sensors to analyse its location in the room and adjust the sound profile accordingly.

Apple's Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and can make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats. As a music-playing device, it will also be a challenger to Sonos, whose wifi-controlled speakers are used by many smartphone users for home entertainment.

The price is quite a jump from Google's $129 Home and Amazon's $180 full-sized Echo.

Data for the Google Home is encrypted in transit and at rest, which means that it's protected as it heads to Google's servers and encoded again where it's stored.

The device features what Apple calls innovative signal processing, which allows Siri to process request from afar, even with the music playing at full blast.

Apple's WWDC 2017 keynote event delivered much of what was expected of it on Monday, with the new iOS 11 and a competitor to Alexa the main talking points taken out of San Jose.

Another key feature will be the ability to buy in-app purchases directly from the App Store, without having to launch the game first. Spending on smart home related hardware, services and installation fees will reach US$155 billion by 2022, up from nearly US$90 billion this year, with devices accounting for about half of that, the consulting firm also estimates. Called High Sierra, it recognizes more faces automatically, which should make it easier to organize photos, and will offer more photo editing tools.

New iMacs unveiled on Monday at Apple's annual conference are getting better displays and graphics capabilities.

Users can ask the speaker to read them the latest news, play podcasts, set reminders - everything that's already possible with Siri on other Apple devices.

This isn't Apple's first attempt to enter the home audio market.

Beats Electronics was also working on a Wi-Fi-equipped speaker when it was acquired by Apple in 2014, but Apple chose to kill the project before it was publicly announced.

The browser's new "intelligent tracking prevention", meanwhile, will use machine learning to identify and block digital-ad trackers in order to keep advertisers from following and profiling users. It will not actually block ads, though.

The new iPad Pro will be available in three sizes, including a 10.5 inch model.

A new desktop and laptop operating system was also announced.

Apple's Kevin Lynch speaks about the Apple Watch. Critics instead saw a negotiating tactic to get Prime Video onto the Apple device, and a prod for people to buy Amazon's competing Fire TV players.

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