Leading up to Apple's WWDC 2017, rumors had already forecast the company would unveil its answer to the Amazon Echo. The company is framing its new smart speaker as a completely different product type, though, a hybrid of an Echo-like smart speaker and a Sonos-style home audio setup. It had better have some serious audio chops, as the Apple HomePod ships in December for a whopping US$349.
Compared to the Amazon Echo's $179 price tag, Apple will need to make a strong pitch to justify HomePod's extra $170. Planting its flag in audio quality, Apple is using the speaker's spatial awareness (tailoring audio beams based on the room it's in), an Apple A8 chip and seven beam-forming speakers to make its case to customers.
The Siri digital assistant is built in, of course, to give Apple its own answer to Amazon's Alexa (and Google Home's Assistant). It uses the trigger "Hey Siri" to not just answer the kinds of queries you'd utter to an iPhone or Apple Watch, but also new Apple Music-based intelligence that the company says will turn Siri into a musicologist.
For example, in addition to basics like "play this song" or "next song," you can utter more advanced commands like "who is the drummer on this track?"
Apple didn't mention whether the device will support other streaming services. Clearly Apple Music is the company's focus – and if you want the Siri integration, that's guaranteed to be your only bet – but if there's no support for rival services like Spotify, that may limit the product's reach.
Apple touted the ability to pair two HomePod speakers together, and have the audio automatically adjust to turn them into one stereo stream (something Sonos does, but Echo doesn't yet). The company lists the speaker as coming in just under seven inches tall, and it will ship in white and black color options.
Apple HomePod is set to release this December for $349. You can see Apple's announcement video below.
Product page: Apple