Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused 'HomePod'

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In a recent interview, Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of global marketing, said the HomePod will provide better sound quality than Amazon's Echo and more interactive capabilities than Sonos' line of wireless speakers. The move positions Apple to compete with popular payments apps such as Square Cash and Venmo.There will also be a new Translation feature, which will support Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish to start with, but will get bigger as time goes on. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality "experiences".

"We want to combine this all", he said.

"This product is much more of a me-too offering". But he saw a big negative - it is more expensive. It's expected the HomePod will be available later this year for about $350. Google Home and several versions of Amazon's Echo, which utilizes the intelligent personal assistant technology called Alexa, are both substantially cheaper than the HomePod.

Amazon's Echo is designed for flexibility. (GOOGL) (GOOGL), with its Google Home product, and Amazon Inc.'s (AMZN) Amazon Echo. Siri, a digital assistant that has been on Apple's iPhone since 2011, will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house. John Mannes at TechCrunch says HomePod is "disrupting the massive home speaker market and the emerging smart speakers space". For Apple, having one would further broaden the role that its software, services and gadgets play in people's lives.

All the early reviews highlight that the HomePod produces vastly superior sound quality compared to its smart speaker competitors.

Apple has a made lots of announcements at the Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) held in in San Jose on Monday. Per Apple, the Pod is built with a "high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier to play a wide range of deep, rich bass".

"Is it going to be an Echo killer?" Apple promises compatibility for sharing, but we'll have to wait and see if that's actually true.

The "HomePod" speaker unveiled Monday is similar to devices from rivals, some of which have been on the market for years.

While some expect the HomePod to sell out on its release over Christmas, it failed to inspire much in investors at the conference with shares falling 1% yesterday after an analyst downgrade from Pacific Crest.

In the meantime, users interested in getting a sneak peak at Apple's forthcoming mobile OS can download the first beta over here presuming that they have an existing Apple developers account.

Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

Since June 2015, any newly created apps have been required to support 64-bit processing, so any that have been updated during this period should not be affected by the changes. Apple explained the HomePod with a combination of beamforming, advanced algorithms, virtual transparency, room sensing, and musicologist.

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