Apple Announces the HomePod Wireless Speaker with Voice Control

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The HomePod, a wireless speaker for the home that allows users to ask Apple's voice assistant Siri to play music and ask questions, will retail for US$349 when it is released in December in the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Australia.

However, unlike Amazon Echo and Google Home, Apple is positioning HomePod more as an alternative to connected music-systems from Sonos and Bose.

Analysts say Apple has been slow to improve its Siri virtual assistant and launch a smart speaker, after Amazon launched its Echo in 2014.

HomePod, Apple's new smart speaker, is clearly targeted at Amazon's wildly successful Echo.

Created to be optimised when used with an Apple Music subscription, Apple says HomePod can "provide deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music."By saying things "Hey Siri, I like this song", HomePod will work to learn the musical preferences of a user (including genres, moods and playlists) and music tastes shared across devices".

The seven-inch tall device works with Apple Music and has seven small "tweeter" speakers arranged in a ring around the bottom of the unit and a large 4-inch woofer in the middle.

Apple HomePod will be available starting in December, initially in Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA - potentially to be followed by other countries in 2018. To show you in the simplest form how it compares to Google Home and Amazon Echo, we put together the chart below.

"If Apple or Google want to come calling, my phone number is out there, they can call.I don't know if I can envision it but I hope that will happen on behalf of customers", said David Limp.

Through "on-device learning", Siri can also suggest items that may be of interest to you.

However, Apple insists that its HomePod speakers won't be competing directly against the likes of the aforesaid. The device will cost $349 USA, considerably more than similar products from competitors Amazon and Google. Because the devices understand your natural way of speaking, smart speakers are less complicated to operate than other gadgets, making it an easy-to-use tool for seniors. It's not available for pre-order yet, but when it is, it will set you back $349.

The Amazon Echo weighs 2.34 lbs. while the Google Home is at 1.05 lbs. Though HomePod only supports Apple Music and nothing else.

This new breed of smart speaker is an important market for Apple and other tech giants, including Microsoft (MSFT), which last month announced the Invoke, a smart speaker powered by its Cortana. And, of course, Apple joined the race with the recently announced HomePod.

For now, it looks like Apple's HomePod does not offer any breakthroughs in comparison to other devices, and the company hasn't talked about support for other services besides Apple Music.

The HomePod is arriving in December this year in white and "space grey".

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