Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo: The similarities and differences, explained

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Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling a new "smart" home speaker and device features touching on virtual reality, online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

The company's smart-speaker, the HomePod, is going after the growing online home assistant buyers with the Siri-assisted device.

Amazon's Echo smart speaker was the tech success story of 2016.

With this new device, Apple's overall message is clear - Apple HomePod is here to take on Amazon Echo and Google Home. The HomePod works with Apple Music and has six microphones and a four-inch woofer speaker with seven beam-forming tweeters that are meant to give the device better acoustics and listening capabilities.

Apple vice president Phil Schiller said the company's Siri team had tuned the assistant into a "musicologist" that learns the tastes of listeners and gets songs from the internet cloud.

Users can ask the speaker to read them the latest news, play podcasts, set reminders - everything that's already possible with Siri on other Apple devices.

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Apple just revealed what it's been up to in software for the past year. and it's remarkably Google-y.

"The focus looks to be more about competing with Sonos and supporting Apple's Music service than its HomeKit efforts", he told TechNewsWorld. The speaker filters out any other commands other than "Hey Siri" pre-fixed ones making the results more accurate.

And although there has been no official announcement, U.S. media says Apple products will return to Amazon's home page, after a two-year absence, as a quid pro quo.

And Apple has some real advantages that Google and Amazon lack: a long track record of excellent hardware, a customer base that's accustomed to paying more, and over 500 retail stores worldwide where potential buyers will be able to see (and hear) the HomePod before buying. And considering the fact that it is hitting the market around Christmas-time, the HomePod is aiming to replace the Echo and Home as the highest-selling speaker around the globe. It's available via a shortcut in the newly-designed Control Center.

Apple's iOS 11 mobile operating system will not be available for the iPhone 5 and 5C or the iPad 4 when it is released in the autumn.

Safari, Apple's web browser, seeks to make users' online experience smoother and less annoying. Apple Music, despite years of work, still lags behind Spotify and was recently, according to one analysis, surpassed by Amazon Prime Music (helped, no doubt, by the rise of the Echo).

HomePod will be available for $349 (US) in white and space gray starting in December initially in Australia, the United Kingdom and the US.1 HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s and later, running iOS 11. This makes Amazon's speaker more functional and versatile.

The hardware debut, a rarity at the annual developers conference that traditionally features software and only minor hardware updates, came as analysts and investors watch for signs of the world's largest publicly traded company's next blockbuster product a decade after the introduction of the iPhone.

Setting up the HomePod requires just placing a functional iPhone running iOS 11 next to the HomePod.