The new Apple HomePod comes with Siri built-in. Is it the answer to our desire for instant information ?
"HomePod what can you do?"
Hey Siri - play my favourite songs
Siri - will it rain today?
Hey Siri - how long will it take me to drive to Melbourne from Sydney?
Siri - turn on the lights at 5pm today
Hey Siri - wake me up at 7am tomorrow morning
Can Apple's new HomePod speaker do all this?
Apple unveiled the latest addition to its range at its worldwide developer conference - wwdc - in San Jose last week.
And yes, Apple claim that HomePod will do all of the above, and will also "reinvent home music."
It's Apple's first completely new kind of product in more than two years but it is not an original idea. Amazon debuted its Echo home speaker in 2014, while Google followed with its Google Home version in 2016.
However, just because the concept is not new, doesn't mean that it won't take off.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook (above) at wwdc reminded the crowd of how the iPod reinvented the way that we listen to music on the go, even though the iPod was not the first portable digital music player on the market.
“Just like with portable music, we want to reinvent home music,” Tim Cook said during the conference.
It's a speaker first and foremost
Apple says the HomePod's main function is to play music and they have given the greatest emphasis to sound quality.
With a seven-tweeter array and a four-inch subwoofer, the HomePod should deliver excellent sound quality. But the real breakthrough technology is that Apple has engineered the speaker with “spatial awareness” so it can automatically adjust its acoustics to suit the room.
This would be a seriously great feature, if it turns out to be effective, especially for those of us who are still technically challenged by setting up devices.
Secondly it's a Home Assistant
Besides playing music, Apple say the HomePod will help people manage their lives and homes. Theoretically, Siri will be the voice assistant responding to requests for information and other help around the house.
It is only listening when you prompt it awake by saying: “Hey Siri” and a light will appear on top of the speaker. When you do that, it records it, encrypts it and sends it anonymously to the cloud so you’re not identified. Apple has been a staunch supporter of encryption and has clearly gone out of its way to mitigate concerns over privacy.
The Apple Effect on a growing market
Apple has a history of taking products already on the market, reworking them, adding great design and bringing them into the Apple family.
The company’s game plan has always been to lure consumers into their closed ecosystem and with a product designed to sit at the centre of other connected devices, the HomePod could pay big dividends.
According to US market research firm eMarketer, more than 35 million people in the US — where the home speaker market has really taken off — are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year. That is more than double the previous year.
It’s clearly a growing market, and one that Apple is primed to capture.
Available In Australia in time for Christmas
Australia, along with the US and UK, will be one of the first markets to introduce the HomePod.
A December availability has been announced at a purchase price of US$349 which - with import duty and GST - should translate into something around $500 when Australian pricing is disclosed.
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