Here's our first look at Apple's new HomePod smart speaker

Guillermo Lane
June 7, 2017

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia.

Focusing on sound quality would give Apple an advantage, particularly given its historical strength in music, if it moves to another front in its war against Google and

"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

You can purchase the Slim Combo today from Logitech and from Apple's online and physical stores. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers. Siri will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house. It unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014.

Apple didn't let us actually get hands-on with the HomePod during WWDC, and they didn't have any functioning units for showing off features of the product in the demo area. Another Safari feature will stop video from automatically playing on websites.

HomePod capped a keynote presentation that included updates to Apple's iPad and Mac laptop lines, and upgraded operating software enabling augmented reality for iPhones and iPads. The current version is just Sierra.

Apple will later this year release a "HomePod" music-centric smart home speaker, challenging a market now dominated by Amazon and Google in its latest move to weave deeper into people's lives.

McIlwain said he expects Apple to add new categories at next week's bash, but not almost enough to match Alexa's number of skills.

Virtual reality has been described as the next big thing for decades. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015, Sunday, June 4, 2017.

The new iPhone 8 is also likely to include a faster processor and dual cameras with support for augmented reality. But so far, interest has been strongest among gamers, developers and hardware makers rather than everyday users. Apple's entry into the market could change that. That size offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model couldn't. The price ranges between $1299 (for the 12-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro) to $2,399 (for 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar). The new iPad starts at $649 and will start shipping next week. But Apple was careful to frame it as a product focused on music first - potentially differentiating it from the Echo and Home.

Apple's stock didn't react strongly to the news, falling 1% on Monday and up slightly to $154.38 in early morning trading on Tuesday. These devices will only keep the most recent messages in local storage. Apple will also have new tools for organizing photos and creating sharable videos.

Apple is taking on Venmo and Square Cash with peer-to-peer payments. Before, Apple Pay transactions could be done only with businesses and institutions. Google Maps already does both.

Apple is doing its part to cut down on distracted driving. The phone will block most notifications to reduce temptations behind the wheel.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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