November 19 2017

Apple unveils voice-activated, connected home speaker

November 19 2017, 07:00 | Jodi Jackson

Apple'HomePod speaker to take on Amazon GoogleMore

Apple'HomePod speaker to take on Amazon GoogleMore

"In 2016, Apple announced 150 new intents, or commands, for Siri at its WWDC developers" conference-still far fewer than the 12,000 available with Amazon. It's the individual services that really differentiate the voice assistants and the speakers. Being able to pair them with Apple's HomePod, rather than skipping on one for the other, would certainly appeal to many of us. Here we pit the three devices against each other in all the key categories.

On the WWDC 2017 stage, Apple highlighted the HomePod's music capabilities, including but not limited to its woofer and an array of seven tweeters. Amazon and Google took the techie, smart-gadget route, which is perfectly fine. "Dot and Echo through Bluetooth and Audio Out can connect to other speakers". However, it is not without competition, there is also Amazon Echo and Google Home which we have written about here. You do have the option of the cheaper, of course, which you can plug into any speaker system you like.

Since wearables and tablets failed miserably for most, the tech world now seems focused on assistant products and smart home speakers, or a combination of the two.

Richard Windsor from Edison Investment Research said: "Apple has positioned this as something that the user buys for a high-quality audio experience with Siri coming as an added bonus". Siri will be able intelligently to create a personal playlist based on what you tell it to play. As it listens you more it gets better and better at understanding you. It's not quite as comprehensive as Siri in what it can actually do though - at least not yet.

Still, Siri's most appealing feature may be privacy protection.

Alexa - just like the Amazon website - is sprawling and a little untidy around the edges. And during the keynote, Apple made it clear that that's what they're more concerned with as well.

How Smart is the Music Streaming? Until Apple improves Siri to the point it can be in the same playing field as Alexa and Google Assistant, the HomePod is just a very nice but expensive $350 speaker.

Amazon and Google's existing speakers have also proved popular with consumers since the Echo launched in the United Kingdom in 2016 and Home earlier this year. Meanwhile, Apple's HomePod only has HomeKit announced up to now. Compared to the Amazon Echo, which has thousands of third-party application features, and Google Home that is catching up.

It's here that a lot of attention naturally remains too because of the high profile success of the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

So why the rush with Apple HomePod? But if you don't need your speaker to go that deep, the HomePod may be worth the plunge when it arrives in December. After users activate the device and "Hey Siri" is recognised locally on the device information is sent to Apple services where it is encrypted and send using a Siri identifier. Though each one works smart and apt, Google Home is an inch ahead because of Google's own enhanced search results.

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