Apple debuts ‘HomePod’ smart speaker

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AT ITS Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California on Monday, Apple unveiled the HomePod – a voice-controlled speaker powered by its virtual assistant Siri.

Like devices by Amazon and Google, the HomePod can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures.

Analysts say Apple has been slow to improve its Siri virtual assistant and launch a smart speaker, after Amazon launched its Echo in 2014.

But now, the world’s most valuable technology company looks set to make up for it, introducing new ways to get customers to use more of its money-making apps and services.

Siri will be integrated into the $349 (€310) speaker and can make music recommendations that pair Apple Music, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats.

The HomePod stands just under seven inches (18 cm) tall and is covered in fabric mesh that will come in white or grey.

A computer processor will tune sound to the room and beam specific parts of music, like a singer’s voice, toward the listener.

Apple will begin shipping the HomePod to the United States, Britain and Australia in December.

Apple also used its annual developer meeting – its largest ever with some 5,000-people attending – to announce the next version of its mobile operating system – iOS 11 – which will include a new setting for people who use their iPhone in the car.

In January, the company was sued by a US couple whose daughter was killed by a driver allegedly using FaceTime on his iPhone.

The new driving mode silences notifications, turns the phone’s display off, and can automatically reply to messages to warn friends that you are driving.

Samsung is testing a similar feature for its Android-powered phones.

Apple also announced:

  • A deal bringing the Amazon Prime Video streaming service to the Apple TV set-top box
  • An update to its Safari web browser, which will now stop websites from tracking visitors and stop videos playing automatically
  • Speed upgrades to its iMac and Macbook range of computers, plus a new iMac Pro which the company says is the most powerful Mac ever made

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