It goes directly against the Amazon Echo and Google Home. HomePod is designed for voice control with an array of six microphones, so users can interact with it from across the room, even while loud music is playing.
Overall control of the HomePod can be maintained from the Home app, and Apple also revealed users will be able to pair their phone with HomePod by holding it next to the speaker. HomePod uses the company's A8 chip, which Apple also used to use for its mobile devices, and a multicolor LED light on top of the device will signal whenever Siri is listening.
Apple "can't afford to yield valuable real estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight. The tech giant says the speaker produces a high-quality sound that puts it on par with "un-smart" home music systems like Sonos.
The HomePod is an AI-powered speaker, powered by the same Siri voice assistant found in iPhones and iPads. Siri was introduced as a feature in the iPhone 4S in 2011, three years before Amazon came out with Alexa and the Echo.
The Apple HomePod is a wireless speaker that promises to deliver wonderful audio quality. If you happen to be subscribed to Cupertino's music-streaming service, you'll have access to its entire library and your own playlists and preferences. Apple's HomeKit is a bit behind other smart home platforms, but there is a small but growing list of compatible devices that work with it. The speaker uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjusts the audio output.
Given that in recent quarters, Apple has struggled with tepid iPhone sales, it may be hoping that the HomePod will help fuel its revenue growth.
The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home. Apple did list Australia as a launch country, which means, given the worldwide dateline, it's likely we'll see HomePod here before anyone else.