Apple unveils 'HomePod' speaker, first new product in years

Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference

HomePod will taking Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have been building momentum in the market for voice-controlled speakers capable of controlling smart appliances, fetching content from the internet and more. That definitely puts it up at the top when it comes to "smart" speakers.

The $349 device - shipping in December for the USA, United Kingdom and Australia - stands at seven inches tall, is wrapped in mesh fabric and comes packed with the same dual-core A8 chip used in the iPhone 6, giving it the "biggest brain ever in a speaker", according to Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller. In that way, it's like a very big AirPod.

We were able to extend our index finger and thumb and nearly span the entire speaker, which, according to the HomePod specs, is just under seven inches tall.

Apple "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight.

But it's more than just a loud wireless speaker.

While Apple may hope that people buy into the idea of HomePod serving a different, more musical goal than its Amazon and Google rivals, people really like using their speakers for services beyond listening to music.

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Apple's Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and can make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats.

Apple is expected to announce plans for a speaker on Monday. From initial images it appears the HomePod will be available in white or dark grey. The A8 means the HomePod will be able to better predict when it hears its name and be able to perform real-time acoustic modeling that will shape the sound to fit the room it's in. The souped-up new version "will support up to 18 core processors and include a graphic chipset called Radeon Vega", making it Apple's most powerful computer to date, according to the NYT. It will also be possible to exchange data between gym equipment and the watch.

As you would expect, the device relies heavily on its integration with Apple Music, with Apple's vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller touting the music streaming service's access to over 40 million songs.

It'd be nice to see Apple come out with additional colors - or at least some way to personalize the speaker - considering that the Home has interchangeable bases that give it a nice visual flair. Google released its Home product in May 2016, and Amazon has expanded its line of Alexa-enabled speakers, which now spans five different products including the Echo Dot, the portable Tap, the soon-to-be-released Echo Show and the Echo Look, which is only available by invitation for now.

In its current incarnation, Apple's HomeKit system is software only.

There's still a lot left to explore about the Apple HomePod smart speaker. Today we're having a closer look at Apple official.

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