We just got our first look at Apple’s long-awaited Amazon Echo rival.
HomePod will cost $349 and come in white or space gray. It’ll start shipping December in the U.S., UK, and Australia. The rest of the world will get HomePod next year. HomePod requires an iPhone 5S or later and iOS 11.
“This is a chance to reinvent music,” said Apple’s marketing SVP Phil Schiller. “Why hasn’t this happened yet? First it needs to rock the house. Second, it needs to be spatially aware. Third, it needs to be really fun to use and have a built in musicologist.”
Like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home speakers, users interact with the new device via voice commands.
The 7-inch tall speaker itself resembles a squatter Mac Pro with mesh-like exterior. Created to work with Apple Music, HomePod (what do you think of the name?) contains an upward-facing woofer for deep bass, and has an array of seven beam-forming tweeters to fire sound in all directions — all powered by Apple’s own A8 chip.
Buy two and you can sync them up for even louder sound. It has a 6-microphone array so you can say “Hey Siri”, just like you would “Alexa…” on an Echo.
Apple also says pairing the HomePod is as easy as pairing AirPods: Just hold it up to your supported iOS device.
One of the more interesting HomePod features is its “automatic room-sensing technology.” Apple says it’ll automatically optimize
Apple says it’s contextually aware, so you can ask tell Siri something like “Play something now” and then follow it up with “Who’s singing.”
Though Siri’s mainly used to control music, there are other domains that Siri is well-versed in, such as news, translation, sports, etc. In other words, it doesn’t look more intelligent than the Echo. It’s nowhere near as intelligent as the Google Home, which is powered by the Assistant and taps into Google Search.
If you’ve got HomeKit devices connected to it, you can also use Siri voice commands to control them as well. For example, “Hey Siri, turn up the temperature.”
The speaker is one of the most significant new pieces of hardware to make its debut at WWDC in recent memory. At its annual developer conference, Apple typically shows off new software releases — updates to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS — not new hardware, though it has introduced new Macs at the show in the past.
The speaker, however, is a completely new category for the electronics giant, which wants to claim a bigger presence in its customers’ living rooms.