Apple unveils $349 HomePod to compete with Amazon Echo, Google Home

Tomas Mccoy
June 6, 2017

Apple's also expected to unveil a voice-activated, internet-connected speaker to rival Amazon's Echo and Google Home.

This year at WWDC, Apple is anticipated to advance Siri as well as launch a smart speaker based on Siri. However, Siri has been slow to improve its voice-recognition technology and set of responses, especially compared with the more capable Alexa and Google Assistant. It would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

The speaker will compete directly with Amazon's Echo and Google Home for the lucrative smart speaker market. "The smart speaker market will continue to expand as Amazon's existing success with the Echo line and third party Alexa-enabled hardware will soon be complemented by additional, substantive category growth driven by the Google side of the equation". The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year. However, given Apple's design pedigree, we'd expect it to knock both its competitors into a cocked hat from a purely visual standpoint. Mark Gurman at Bloomberg News wrote earlier this year that the company didn't move ahead with features that would have given its Apple TV web-streaming product higher-quality video streaming and a video game controller in part because it didn't want to skimp on its profit margin. The Siri digital assistant has been updated to understand more spoken requests focused on music, he also explained.

Amazon puts no such restrictions on Alexa, wagering that the voice assistant with the most "skills", its term for apps on its Echo assistant devices, will gain a loyal following, even if it sometimes makes mistakes and takes more effort to use. Say, you can tell Alexa to cancel the garlic bread one if you finish making it before the timer goes off or ask it how much longer you still have to wait to take your lasagna out of the oven. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality "experiences". However, if its audio capabilities are as good as Apple claims, it could be inviting for iPhone and iPad owners looking for a single do-everything speaker for their home or apartment. Apple also laid some groundwork for augmented reality, the projection of digital features onto real-world surroundings, by giving app developers tools for incorporating AR into their products.

Taking direct aim at services like PayPal, Apple debuted peer-to-peer payments for Apple Pay in which users will be able to send money through the Messages app on iPhones.

The company was expected to introduce iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad.

Other reports by VideoGamingPros

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