Apple is launching a smart home speaker called HomePod to compete with the Amazon Echo and the Google Home devices, the company revealed at its annual worldwide developer conference.
The Cupertino company described the 7in device, which comes in white and “space grey”, as a “breakthrough home speaker” designed to “rock the house”. This means that Apple has placed an emphasis on audio quality, a improvement needed on both the Amazon Echo and Google Home, packing the speaker with an array of seven tweeters and a woofer as well as “spatial awareness” that detects its location in a room and adapts the output automatically.
In announcing the HomePod, Apple CEO Tim Cook said there were many companies making products for enjoying music in the home but “none have nailed it yet”. He mentioned wireless speaker systems such as Sonos that sound good but are not smart and other smart speakers that don’t sound great.
“We want to combine this all,” he said.
HomePod is controlled using Siri, the company’s voice-activated personal assistant, which has, according to Apple, been trained to be better at answering questions about music such as “Hey Siri, who’s the drummer in this?”
“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod, and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing.
The device can also be used to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather and control smart home devices connected using Apple’s HomeKit.
At $349, it will be more expensive than Google Home ($109) and Amazon Echo ($179) but cheaper than the Sonos Play 5 ($499). The product will launch in the UK, US and Australia in December 2017 and in other markets in 2018.