Ever since Amazon and Google introduced their Alexa and Home speakers, Apple fans have wondered when the company will jump into the game. At the WWDC 2017 keynote today, it’s officially in the game, with HomePod.
HomePod is basically a Bluetooth speaker on steroids, designed to fill any room it’s in with seven tweeters for directional control and an upward facing woofer for bass. Internally, it’s got the iPhone 6’s processor, and it’s designed to “learn” a room to properly fill it with music and audio. Basically, you can put it anywhere, and it will figure out the best way to mix your sounds so you get the best possible listening experience from, well, from a seven-inch tall speaker.
It is, unsurprisingly, tightly integrated with Apple Music. It’ll know everything you’ve configured, and it’s designed to better interpret your commands. So if you ask for a vague playlist, it’ll have a better idea of what you really want to listen to, something other speakers have had trouble with. Naturally, it goes beyond that, incorporating Siri as a form of home assistant. Apple is covering a lot of the same ground that Alexa and Home do, here: Homepod sets reminders and timers, offers up news, traffic, weather and sports, and allows you to connect Siri to your smart home stuff and use it to flip on the lights, activate outlets, and other internet of things tools. Apple also claims that Siri won’t be listening to you unless you say “Hey, Siri,” and that any commands that are sent over the internet are anonymized and encrypted.
That said, the HomePod has a potentially fatal flaw in the price. Where Amazon and Google want $50 to $100 for their voice assistants, Apple wants $350. To be fair, the Homepod is basically an iPhone without a screen, but at that price, Apple may need to have more for HomePod than just awesome sound mixing and audio streaming. Hopefully we’ll see that between now and its December arrival.