Apple unveils $349 HomePod to compete with Amazon Echo, Google Home

SAN JOSE -  Apple will compete with Google Home and Amazon Echo later this year with a new speaker called HomePod.

Apple says its looking to “reinvent” the way we listen to music in the home. Apple said the same chip used in the iPhone will power the speaker. “It’s the biggest brains ever in a speaker,” said Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller.

The HomePod speaker will sell for $349, twice as much as the Amazon Echo, and will start shipping  in December.

Apple was expected to announce a smart speaker, a market that Amazon — with its sleeper hit, the Echo — and the later Google Home, powered by Assistant — now dominate, given them an integral place in users' lives. With Siri most widely used on iPhone, Apple risked missing out on the daily, at-home tasks consumers increasingly use Echo or Home for — reminders, calendars, music.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar almost an after thought.

As part of the announcement at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple touted upgrades for the Siri personal assistant in the fall update to the IOS mobile operating system.

Siri will add inflection to her voice, to say phrases three different ways. Additionally, Siri will be able to chime in by answering follow-up questions, and offer multiple results to queries.

Following in Google’s footsteps, Siri will also be able to translate and speak phrases from six languages, with more coming later, Apple said. The HomePod speaker has six built-in microphones compared to 1 on Siri, so response rate should be much better.


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