Apple said HomePods can pick up the commands from across the room with a 6-microphone array (compared to the Echo’s 7 microphones and Home’s 2 microphone).
The common wisdom is that Apple is rarely first, but it’s usually best. In fact, during the announcement, the whole “smart” part of the “smart speaker” didn’t warrant mention until near the end. Macquarie thinks as long as the audio quality holds up, consumers will snap up the new speaker.
Members of the media photograph a prototype Apple HomePod during the annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, US June 5, 2017. That includes a “seven beam-forming tweeter array”, “precision acoustic horns”, and “directional control”. Inside is the same processor that powers the iPhone and an upward-facing 4-inch woofer.
HomePod uses the company’s A8 chip, which Apple also uses for its mobile devices.
It also uses spacial awareness to adapt and ensure a better sound, depending on its environment, and it works closely with Apple Music. These types of music-related capabilities are limited to Apple Music subscribers, though; if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee, Siri won’t be able to help you here. Time will tell if this enthusiasm is warranted, but ARKit will be one of the largest AR platforms on launch, even as Apple plays catch up to companies like Google and Snapchat.
“Apple is smart to frame the HomePod as a music-centric and audio-centric device rather than just another smart speaker or another home for Siri”, said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson.
“It’s a logical step for Apple, to ensure that they don’t miss the opportunity to get a smart device right in the centre of people’s homes”, said Ben Wood, an industry analyst at CCS Insight. I have very little doubt about that. So you can ask it questions such as “Hey Siri, who’s the bass player in this?”. The speaker can also control your home kit devices, in case you have any.
The device syncs with Apple Music to provide a “deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes”, which hopefully isn’t as creepy as it sounds.
That’s all fun and games until you start to wonder if Siri is now spying on you and your loved ones. All communications are end-to-end encrypted.
“We completely reimagined how a speaker should make music in the home,” Apple added. That’s certainly been our experience.
This is Apple’s long-awaited competitor to Amazon’s popular Echo speark. Evaluating this would be hard, and it’s likely that each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Set to retail for $349 United States dollars, the HomePod’s specifications certainly stand up to the competition.
This is considerably more than the $179.99 Amazon Echo.
The Google Home, it could be argued, is in many ways the superior product to the Echo.