Apple has announced their competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, and it’s called the HomePod. It’s a round speaker covered in either a white or space grey fabric mesh. It’s being touted primarily as a premium music device, although it does have Siri built-in to compete with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistant.
The Apple HomePod contains an array of seven tweeters along the bottom, as well as a four-inch upward-facing subwoofer. It has Apple’s A8 processor on board, which it uses, in combination with its six microphones, to tune the sound to the space it’s in using “spatial awareness.”
You can talk to Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, through the speaker by saying “Hey Siri” followed by your command. Apple is touting the speaker’s privacy aspects since it does not send your voice recordings to their servers until after you say “Hey Siri,” although this is pretty much exactly how Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistants work as well, so I don’t see how this promotes privacy anymore than the top competing products in this category, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The HomePod speaker also doubles as an Apple HomeKit hub, so it can be used to relay commands from iPhones and iPads to HomeKit compatible smart home devices while you’re away from home. The top of the device lights up with a set of lights, similar to Siri’s waveform, when you speak to it. There is also a touch interface, although it’s not a touchscreen, but not much else about this is known at this time because the units in the demo area at WWDC are not functional.
The Apple HomePod will cost $349 when it’s released in December in the US, UK, and Australia. It will be available in other countries next year.