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We had known for a few weeks now that Apple was working on a smart speaker, informally called the Siri Speaker. Fortunately, the company used WWDC 2017 to reveal the product.
So what should you know? Well, we already had a brief rundown in our WWDC live article, but here’s all the important and not-so-important information.
It’s got some impressive audio chops (in theory)
Apple says their new product has seven tweeters and a “high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier”.
So it’s plain to see that the company is positioning the product for its music, first of all.
It analyses your room for the best audio
The HomePod also has an array of sensors on board, designed to analyse the speaker’s environment.
“It automatically analyses the acoustics [in the room – ed], adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s location, and steers the music in the optimal direction,” Apple claims. This means that you can put the speaker against walls, on shelves and elsewhere and have it automatically adjust — in theory.
You’ll want an Apple Music subscription
Siri is also baked into the speaker, as you’d expect. But Apple is marketing Siri’s inclusion as “the ultimate music authority”.
In other words, you can ask it for recommendations, tell it to play specific artists/albums/playlists/genres and ask it music-related questions (who’s the drummer in this song?). What if you don’t have Apple Music but want to use Siri for your own library?
“Siri works with Apple Music. Subscription required for Apple Music,” reads a disclaimer on Apple’s website. Not quite clear, but not looking hopeful…
It pairs up with other HomePods
Much like Google Home, Apple’s HomePod can also be paired up with another HomePod in the household.
This way, you get the same music playing in different rooms, obviously. Otherwise, you can get better sound in one room.
You’ve got general queries as well
Again, like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, you can pose general queries and commands to the HomePod too.
From trivia, timers, translations and news to sports, traffic, the weather and smart home tasks, Siri on the HomePod is a jack of all trades.
Apple claims privacy is key
The company has sought to allay fears of the HomePod snooping on you, claiming that your voice queries are anonymised and encrypted, for starters.
Otherwise, the company says that until you say “hey Siri”, nothing is being sent to Apple. It’s a nice reassurance, but does that mean the HomePod might struggle to adapt over time to you? We’re not sure just yet.
Apple says that the HomePod will launch in December (available in grey and white), although we expect South Africa to probably follow in the new year.
The device has a retail price of US$349, making it over twice as expensive as Google’s Home speaker, for one. Then again, Apple is leaning heavily on the premium audio credentials, selling it as a quality speaker with smart capabilities, rather than a general smart speaker.