Sonos made a playlist for Apple's HomePod launch

10 February, 2018, 08:50 | Author: Carmen Reese
  • Apple Home Pod

Apple's new $349 smart speaker HomePod officially hit stores today, and you're probably already aware that the initial reviews have been mixed: Generally positive on the sonic performance, generally neutral-to-positive on the industrial design, and disappointed to downright negative on Siri.

Apple stores and retailers such as BestBuy start selling the speaker today.

Alibaba cuts into the market with its self-developed artificial intelligence and cloud technologies, while Xiaomi is backed by its broad product mix of hardware, which will enable the two companies to catch up, say they analyst.

The HomePod is small and sleek in a typically Apple sort of way.

With the launch, Apple is taking on existing smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo ($100) and Google Home ($129). There's no remote control, and no audio input port - just an integrated, fabric-covered power cable.

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There's a long history of companies snarkily welcoming major new entrants to the space they're known for, famously going back to Apple's "Welcome, IBM". Case in point: this isn't even the first time it's been repurposed against Apple for a music product - Rdio wrote "Welcome, Apple". The HomePod does have features the Amazon Echo and Google Home don't, such as the ability to play podcasts at a faster speed or use voice to send iMessages and WhatsApp texts, according to BuzzFeed's Nicole Nguyen. "Siri doesn't even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone".

So can Siri take on Alexa? The question is: will hardcore music fans embrace voice control the way more casual fans have?

It's worth noting smart speakers launched by these brands are mainly based on speech recognition of English. Google Home only supports the Google calendar, while the Invoke supports both Google and Microsoft calendars. An Apple spokesperson promised us that the functions will be "coming this year in a free software update". If requested, it should also be able to preclude unauthorized sharing of personal information such as one user's messages and calls with people other than that person. That would seem like an obvious thing for Apple to add for HomePod. A true stereo mode would be great, too.

However, its Siri and Apple Music exclusivity make it a hard sell as a smart speaker for anyone who isn't fully invested in Apple's ecosystem.

If Siri finds a coffee shop that sounds to your liking, for example, there's no way to send that information to your iPhone. But if you've got a particular playlist in Spotify you want to play on your HomePod, you can play it - you'll just need to do it from your iOS device.

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