Apple announces HomePod at WWDC17

Alex Kidman 6 June 2017

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Apple's HomePod smart speaker will launch later this year with the promise of great audio quality as well as AI features.

Apple's Tim Cook dusted off the "one last thing" gag for the finale of its WWDC17 keynote, revealing the new HomePod speaker.

"We want to reinvent home music", said Apple's Tim Cook. Apple's positioning for HomePod is that it will sit between the quality level of a Sonos style speaker and the intelligence of devices such as Google Home.

HomePod will run on the Apple A8 silicon, with what Apple is calling "perhaps the biggest brain ever in a speaker". The HomePod will work wirelessly with what Apple calls "Spatial Awareness", using the space that it is in to dynamically adjust audio equalisation for the (claimed) best possible audio effect.

Like competing solutions, the HomePods will be able to work in concert with each other if you buy multiple units. HomePod works with Apple Music to enable music playback, working with a six microphone array and Apple's Siri to provide music playback. A Siri-style light will fire up when you say "hey Siri" to the HomePod, and it will also handle music-centric queries around what you're listening to or what you're likely to want to listen to. Apple claims that the HomePod can pick up voices from across the room even with other noise factors in play.

With inbuilt Siri, HomePod will also support AI features for news, traffic, sports, reminders, translation and weather information. It will also be Homekit compatible if you have Apple's home automation technology installed in your home, including remote control of devices via Apple's Home app.

Apple's claim on the privacy front is that the speaker doesn't start sending any information to Apple until you issue a "Hey Siri" command.

We won't see the new speaker in market until later this year, with Apple listing pricing at $US349 when it ships in December. Apple did list Australia as a launch country, which means, given the international dateline, it's likely we'll see HomePod here before anyone else. Apple Australia has stated that Australian pricing will be revealed later in the year.

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