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Apple launches HomePod to take on Amazon, Google offerings
June 12, 2017, 11:36 am

Apple raised the curtain on HomePod, its upcoming smart speaker, during the keynote presentation at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week. The company also announced some desktop OS features for the iPad, and revealed its plans to become an augmented reality powerhouse.

"Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for worldwide marketing, told an enthusiastic crowd at the San Jose Convention Center in California.

HomePod, which will be available in December and will retail for US$350, is slightly less than 18cm tall and is covered with a seamless 3D mesh fabric. Inside the speaker, there are seven tweeters, each with their own driver, that give sound precise directional control. HomePod also has a 10cm woofer that uses dynamic software modeling to eliminate distortion as the volume is cranked up.

The ‘smarts’ of the speaker is from an Apple A8 processor found on older iPhones. It is perhaps the biggest brain ever in a speaker and allows for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam forming and multichannel echo cancellation.

It also has six microphones that can handle voice commands even when it is playing music through Apple's digital assistant Siri. "We really believe it's going to take your home music experience to the next level," Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the event. Although the smart speaker market is dominated by Amazon and Google, Apple is positioning HomePod more as an audio device than a smart home interface and it is priced notably higher than Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home.  Apple appears to have set its sights on other high-end players in the speaker market, including Sonos and Bose music systems’; at least they have priced it in that bracket.

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