Apple battle rivals with new ‘HomePod’ to reinvent home audio

Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks during the opening keynote address ar the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks during the opening keynote address ar the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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Apple will go head-to-head with rivals Amazon and Google, as the US tech giant throws its hat into the growing smart home arena.

Apple boss Tim Cook took to the stage at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California to unveil the ‘HomePod’ speaker which he claimed will ‘reinvent home audio.’

The speaker will compete directly with Amazon’s Echo and Google Home for the lucrative smart speaker market. It will utilise Apple music and Siri to do everything from play music to control other smart home appliances.

The device is just under seven inches tall and uses spacial awareness to improve how it sounds based on the acoustics and available space in its surrounding environment.

“We want to reinvent music in the home in the way we invented mobile music,’ said Mr Cook, “we really think its going to take your home music experience to the next level.”

The speaker, which will be available at £270 will act as general assistant in people’s homes.

Since the launch of Amazon’s Echo last year and Google Home in March, both of which have been popular with consumers, Apple had been widely expected to enter the market.

Chief executive Mr Cook, referencing the company’s iTunes service and iPod, said: “Just like portable music, we would like to reinvent home music.” The HomePod will use its internal microphones to pick up voice commands and uses the same processor chip as the iPhone to pump out “spatially aware” sound, Apple said.

The tech giant confirmed the device would go on sale in December in the US, UK and Australia.

Apple earlier introduced a new version of its iPad Pro, as well as a raft of new software updates.

The new iPad Pro will have a 10.5-inch screen, placing it between the current 9.7 and 13-inch screens of Apple’s flagship tablet.

The tech firm also updated its Apple Pay system to enable users to directly pay other people using a text message as part of its iOS 11 upgrade.

The company’s TV app is also adding Amazon and its Prime Video service later this year for the first time.

The next version of iOS, which powers the iPhone and iPad, as well as desktop software macOS and the Apple Watch’s watchOS were also updated at the firm’s Worldwide Developer Conference, WWDC.

Apple boss Tim Cook said the event was “the best and biggest WWDC ever”.

The technology giant also announced a new software kit for developers called ARKit, which will enabled app developers to build augmented reality apps on Apple’s platforms more easily.

Augmented reality is a mixture of live images and virtual animations and objects placed over them.

Apple also said it was making its virtual assistant Siri more aware of context, enabling it to recommend and remind users more accurately based on how they use their device.

The firm said Siri will now better understand follow-up questions and scheduling as well as handle language translation for the first time. A preview of a new high-powered iMac Pro desktop, due to be released later this year, was also teased.