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Apple unveils HomePod speaker to compete with Amazon Echo, Google Home

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

At its annual World Wide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple (AAPL) unveiled a Siri-powered smart speaker, the HomePod. CEO Tim Cook announced the device as the day’s “one last thing.”

“We think we can do a lot,” Cook said, “to make the experience [of listening to music in your home] much better.”

The speaker is 7 inches tall, covered in “acoustic” mesh, with a 4-inch woofer. Along the bottom: 6 microphones and a beam-forming tweeter. It runs $349, which is far more expensive than competing products.

The Apple Homepod. Photo: Apple

Like Amazon’s (AMZN) $179 Echo, Apple’s HomePod is not just for music. It can tell you the weather, read you news and sports scores, and perform many other tasks, all beginning with the command, “Hey Siri.”

Three years after Amazon launched the Echo and six months after Google (GOOG, GOOGL) launched its $109 Home, this is Apple’s first entry to the category. And like those products, the speaker is a gateway to other Apple products, and a showcase for Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. Amazon Echo is powered by Alexa, while Google Home is powered by Google Assistant. (Last month, Microsoft announced the Invoke, a smart speaker powered by its Cortana voice assistant, set to go on sale in the fall.) Of course, you could also count the Sonos, the Beats Pill, and the Jawbone Jambox as home speakers that will have to compete with Apple HomePod now.

Google Home (L) vs. Amazon Echo

You might wonder why it took Apple this long to launch a home speaker. Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller answered that very question. He reasoned that there are great speakers already out there, but they aren’t “smart,” and there are smart speakers, but they don’t always deliver great quality.

In addition to its own new speaker, Apple revealed that its new iOS 11 can control all the speakers in your home from your iPhone, including any Airplay-compatible third-party speakers.

Announcing the Siri speaker was just one of many Siri-related upgrades that came out of this year’s WWDC. Apple opened the event by showing off new “Siri faces” for the Apple Watch Series 2 that use the voice assistant to provide quick information on the go.

Later in the event, Apple ran through upgrades to Siri, including an updated voice (female and male), ability to translate from other languages, and syncing Siri’s learning about you across all your devices.

So, which smart home speaker should you buy—Amazon’s, Google’s, or Apple’s? Check back at Yahoo Finance on Tuesday for a head-to-head comparison to help aid the decision.

Daniel Roberts covers tech at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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