6 things you need to know about the Apple HomePod

06 June 2017, 05:28 | Myrtle Hill

Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling a new "smart" home speaker and device features touching on virtual reality, online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

HomePod is created to work with the Apple Music subscription service and can produce rich sound while tapping into the artificial intelligence power of Siri. "It will reinvent home audio", boasted Apple CEO Tim Cook.

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. We'll have to wait until December like everywhere else, but it's reassuring to know at least that we won't be left waiting without any release date whatsoever as we have with the Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014.

More than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer. But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products. Apple will let people play audio in multiple rooms while Google works on introducing that to its Cast media streaming app. And Apple's biggest consumer hits - such as the iPhone or the iPod - haven't historically been the first in their category. The company "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. That means it will be able to answer inquiries like the Home and Echo, and also access Apple Music's 4 million song catalogue with a simple voice command.

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05/06/2017: In Apple's quest to make Siri as intelligent as Amazon's Alexa, it's set to announce support for even more apps including music offerings, meaning iOS users will be able to control a wider range of services with their voice.

New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple's annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities. The manufacturing duties have apparently been handled by the same company that makes the iPhone 7's AirPods, with the devices being tested by Apple employees in secret. It will not actually block ads, though. Daryanani said Apple may also announce an iPad Pro with a faster processor in an attempt to revive its long-slumping tablet sales. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

Apple is trying to make augmented reality a reality with new tools for iPhones and iPads.

Apple is also bringing the ability to pay someone back through its payment service, Apple Pay, much as PayPal and other services already do.



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