November 19 2017

Apple's HomePod Cranks Up the Price

November 19 2017, 06:56 | Geraldine Moore

Apple takes on Amazon Echo with Siri-powered HomePod speaker

The Latest: Apple to showcase new features for its gadgets

Apple unveiled a few new technologies at its Worldwide Developers Conference Monday.

HomePod features a large, Apple-designed woofer, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters for high frequency acoustics with directional control. Apple today finally took the wraps off of its standalone speaker, which it hopes will "reinvent home music".

It can do the usual list of tasks we've come to expect from smart speakers, though it appears to have minimal third-party integration. "We don't have any specifics to share regarding a date".

Prime Video arriving on Apple TV ends the last prominent holdout from a major streaming service on Apple's platform.

The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone and supported the theory that the company lost its knack for innovation when its co-founder Steve Jobs died of cancer in 2011. But Amazon's service, which includes hit shows like "Transparent", has been a notable absence from Apple's hardware.

Siri will add inflection to her voice, to say phrases three different ways. It will block videos that start playing automatically, for instance, and can also prevent ads from following and profiling users.

Second: Safari will ship with a tracking prevention system built in.

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.

As for Google Home, the compact speaker benefits from an aggressive price point. You'll still see them all. They were just the best overall. In addition, Apple's tvOS and watchOS received minor updates. Using upgraded iMessage to send your friend $20 instantly through Apple Pay?

The $350 HomePod is billed as a combination of a smart speaker, like the Echo, and a wifi home speaker system, like Sonos. It's a hub that lets you talk to Siri (Apple's digital assistant), it's allegedly a great-sounding speaker, and it looks like a roll of toilet paper.

Apple certainly has some catching up to do: An eMarketer forecast last month predicted that Amazon is expected to command roughly 70 percent of the smart speaker market share this year, with Google Home taking much of the rest of the market. The device has a better display, is faster, and comes with 64GB of memory.

Privacy is also being touted as a vital component of the HomePod. Siri only listens after you say the wake-word, presenters stressed, and your communications with it are encrypted and marked with a unique token, not your name or ID.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia.

Below is The Verge's 19-minute edit of the full keynote.

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