Past rumors have suggested that Apple is coming up with its own Siri-powered smart speaker to rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, allegedly featuring a screen, unlike its competitors. That speaker has now been officially announced during WWDC, and it’s called the HomePod.
The HomePod Is Here
The device is a tad bit expensive compared to Google and Amazon’s offerings at $349 a pop, available in white and space gray. It’s more than a smart speaker, though, according to Apple. HomePod can actually improve music quality and playback because of its spatial awareness.
Here’s how that works: Imagine a user places the HomePod anywhere in the room. From there, the device will scan its environment, analyzing the acoustics so it could adjust the sound output based on where the speaker is, steering the music in the optimal direction. On its website, Apple describes it simply as getting an immersive listening experience no matter where HomePod is placed.
Apple HomePod: Design And Specs
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.
In terms of design, the HomePod looks nothing like Google Home or Amazon Echo, although it does resemble a stump covered with a mesh fabric for the speakers, akin to the base of Google Home or the exterior of Amazon Tap. Six microphones flank the device, listening for anyone who says “Hey, Siri.” Moreover, it has a seven-tweeter array that gauges the sound quality and multi-channel echo cancellation. Under the hood is a proprietary Apple A8 chip, the same processor powering the iPhone 6.
HomePod was Apple’s announcement during the WWDC keynote address on Monday, June 5. The conference ends on June 9.
Because the HomePod boasts Siri as its smart virtual assistant, it can talk about a range of topics, from sports to news to movies and more. It’ll also be able to control other smart home devices and be a musicologist, as Phil Schiller, Apple’s VP of worldwide marketing, puts it. If a song is playing, a user can ask HomePod “who’s the drummer in this?” and instantly get an answer.
Positioning the HomePod as a music-focused smart speaker is no surprise, as Apple knows one thing or two about music indeed. It’s unclear how Apple’s music service will integrate with HomePod, although Apple’s website boasts the smart speaker as having access to Apple Music’s 40 million songs, so that seems to confirm it.
“We want to reinvent home music,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on stage at WWDC. The HomePod is the product of Apple wanting to create a device that’s both a good speaker and a good smart speaker. Apple is depending on spatial awareness to achieve its goal of reinventing home music, although it’s pretty difficult to imagine anyone would shell out $349 for a smart speaker. But of course, it has Apple branding, so that’s an early sign of its success. Time, however, will tell.
The Apple HomePod is shipping later this year in the United States, UK, and Australia. Other countries will get Apple’s speaker next year.