Apple Weighs In On The Business Of Smart Speakers With The HomePod

Apple has launched its own version of the Amazon Echo and Google Home device with the release of a home speaker called the HomePod. The Cupertino-based company revealed its newest product during its annual worldwide developer conference (WWDC) which kicked off on June 5.

According to Apple’s newsroom, the HomePod is designed to work with an Apple Music subscription where users can access over 40 million songs. It has a woofer for a deep and clean bass plus seven beam-forming tweeters, which provide “pure high frequency acoustics with incredible directional control and powerful technologies built right in to preserve the richness and intent of original recordings.”

Siri controls the HomePod. According to Apple, Siri has been trained to answer questions about music like whoever is playing the drums of a certain song that’s presently playing. Apple now refers to Siri as a “Musicologist” as it gains a new knowledge base enabling it to answer questions that are music-related. The extent of this knowledge, however, is not yet clear. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, although there are other companies making products for enjoying music, “none have nailed it yet.”

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Phillip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

The HomePod is a welcome addition to any Apple-loving fan.
[Image by Apple]

“HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

The HomePod is said to use “spatial awareness” in order to sense its location in a room and proceeds to adjust its audio output. It can be linked to another HomePod for a truly surround stereo experience. It can also be connected to other AirPlay 2-compatible speakers placed elsewhere in the house for a multi-room audio experience.

At seven inches tall, the HomePod boasts of an A8 chip which serves as the brain behind its audio innovation. It has a six-microphone array and advanced echo cancellation, which enables Siri to determine whether people are near the device or standing across the room. On top of the HomePod is a Siri waveform, which indicates whether Siri is engaged or not. Best of all, as with most Apple products, the HomePod is easy to setup, and according to Apple, is “as intuitive as setting up AirPods.”

Priced at $349, the HomePod sets users back by $200 in comparison to Google Home ($109) and Amazon Echo ($179). It is, however, cheaper than the Sonos Play 5, which is priced at a whopping $499.

“I think it’s a very Apple-esque product in that it seeks to stake out the high end of a market with its technology, price and positioning,” said analyst Paul Erickson from IHS Markit. “Although Apple has done a great job of being extremely profitable without having to cater to the mainstream, and they will drop their price over time.”

The HomePad has yet to edge out its competition, the Amazon Echo.
The Amazon Echo has had a head start in the smart speakers race. [Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

Though Google and Amazon have had a head start in the smart speakers race, Apple would probably still convince the market to pay a significant premium for its newest product. According to Slate, Amazon and Google’s devices beams living-room conversations to remote servers. Meanwhile, Apple has always been adamant about its privacy and encryption. Apple says that the HomePod will not send anything to a remote server until it hears “Hey, Siri.” This means it will conduct basic language processing locally on the device and not snoop on its users. Plus the data transmitted will be encrypted which gives its patrons a sense of relief that what goes on between Siri and its user, stays between Siri and its user.

As an expert marketer, the $349 price tag would probably not be a problem for Apple when it releases the HomePod starting this December in Australia, the U.K., and the United States. It will be available to the rest of the world in 2018.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]