Can Apple's HomePod Compete With Amazon's Alexa?

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Apple has launched its long-rumored competitor to Amazon's Echo, a home hi-fi system known as HomePod.

For now, it looks like Apple's HomePod does not offer any breakthroughs in comparison to other devices, and the company hasn't talked about support for other services besides Apple Music.

The new Fire TV app sounds similar to the shopping app Amazon rolled out for the Apple TV tvOS in December, although that app was only for Amazon Prime members, and it is not clear whether this one is limited to Prime members or not. "It will reinvent home audio", boasted Apple CEO Tim Cook. The device will work with a user's Apple Music subscription.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

At $349, the HomePod is more expensive than the most-expensive Amazon Echo - the $230 Echo Show - and the Google Home, priced at $129.

Like those other products it is created to be a digital home assistant, capable of answering questions about maths as well as music-related enquiries - but it comes with some Apple quirks.

With the Alexa App, Amazon's Echo speakers allow you to communicate, google search, play music, etc. with the speaker robot. Google's Home speaker, featuring its plain-named Assistant, debuted a year ago. Though not ideal, he says Alexa is better at identifying when the Alexa wake word is coming from a television rather than someone in your house who really does want to ask the speaker something. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year. The HomePod lights appear to be on the very top edge, so you can only see them when stood close and towering over it. In fact, the Echo is already spawning insane siblings, such as the Echo Look and Echo Show, to take over every room in our houses. Microsoft is also teaming up with firms such as Harmon Kardon on speakers that run its Cortana assistant.

That leaves Apple. Although it was the first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant.

And HomePod can do that - some of the time, and only with Apple services.

Apple is facing stiff competition in maintaining market share and is trying to find a means to continue to grow its consumer revenue.

Apple had plenty of other announcements. Musically, the Apple HomePod did blow both Sonos Play:3 and Amazon Echo out of the water, as Engadget's Chris Velazco points out.

The new HomePod has all of the features of Siri that we know like the ability to DJ, answer questions and control a room. Google has fewer third-party integrations and said it plans to add more to its platform soon. Along with this the company also announced an update to the iOS operating system as well as also provide an update for the Mac computers and Apple Watch. Software updates are also expected for Apple's smartwatch and TV box for streaming online video.

It also introduced a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro and previewed the upcoming iOS 11.

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