Dezeen Magazine

Apple unveils "breakthrough home speaker" to rival Amazon and Google

Apple has revealed its voice-controlled HomePod speaker, a competitor to smart home devices Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Apple announced the launch of HomePod today at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

The Siri-enabled speaker links up with the Apple Home app, allowing users to control their connected smart home devices by voice, without touching their iPhone or iPad.

Users say "Hi Siri" followed by their command to trigger Apple's intelligent personal assistant to change the light setting, pause the TV or close the blinds.

But it is on sound quality that Apple hopes to distinguish HomePod from the dominant smart speakers on the market. The tech giant says the speaker produces a high-quality sound that puts it on par with "un-smart" home music systems like Sonos.

Speaking at the conference earlier today, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller said that the device will "reinvent home music... just like the iPod reinvented music in our pockets".

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes," said Schiller.

Measuring just under seven inches tall and featuring rounded mesh covering, the speaker includes an Apple-designed woofer that allows the volume to be turned up without distortion, as well as seven beam-forming tweeters at the base that offer directional control.

Other features include a room-sensing technology that will automatically adapt the sound to the size of its location.

Siri has will also become a "musicologist", learning users' music preferences and answering questions like "who is the drummer?".

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

HomePod will be available to purchase in white or space grey in December this year for $349 (£270).

Apple has faced criticism for playing catch-up rather than leading in the smart speaker market, which has been pioneered by Amazon since it launched the Echo in late 2014. Recent versions of the product include the Echo Look, which incorporates a camera so it can judge your appearance, and the Echo Show, which incorporates a touchscreen.

Google launched its own take on the smart speaker, Google Home, in 2016. Both devices can act as hubs for the smart home, controlling other smart home products, from lighting and heating to doorbells and electronics.

Recently launched connected home devices include Philippe Starck's smart radiator valves, which allow users to remotely control the temperature of each room using their voice, and Yves Behar's home security system that can let visitors into a home even when no one is there.

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference continues until Friday 9 June.