Apple Targets the Home with New Smart Hub


Apple will reportedly release its smart home hub just in time for the 2017 holiday season. This is the first time that Apple is entering the smart home market. The product, called HomePod, will be a Siri-enabled smart speaker, and will be a direct competitor for the Amazon Echo family and the Google Home product.

HomePod does all the basics that we have come to expect a smart home assistant to do; it will answer our general questions, control our smart home products, keep us up to date on the local and world weather, let us know how long we’ll be stuck in traffic, and play all our favorite music.

Apple is banking on how great it will sound when your HomePod does all those things. Sound quality is big for this little device. Where its competitors are more concerned with using their smart home speakers as gateways to selling more services and products, Apple is positioning the smart speaker itself as the lead. With this set up, it adds high-end speakers to its competitor list, and now has to content with the likes of Bose and Sonos, and their loyal customers.

The speakers themselves are meant to be top-line, and will work in a way that minimizes how much users have to tinker with their settings to get the right sounds for all the different music they might play. The HomePod speaker will auto adjust its output based on the track it is playing – vocal heavy vs. bass heavy, for example. It will also deliver sound to the right areas of the room using a sensor system that can identify the surrounding surfaces. The speaker features a high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier, seven beamforming tweeters, and an A8 chip.

HomePod will be available in Apple’s classic white and space gray options. The outside of the speaker is covered in mesh.

You will be able to use two HomePods in one room; they will detect each other and auto balance the sound they produce. If you use HomePod in separate rooms, the two devices will be able to communicate with each other using Apple’s AirPlay 2 so you’ll be able to play the same music in every room of the house, or in both your indoor and outdoor spaces.

Apple’s HomePod will cost about $350. This is a big leap from the Amazon Echo products, which start at $40 and cost up to $240. The Amazon devices also include things like screens and cameras – neither of which is offered by the Apple model. The Amazon device most similar to the Apple device is almost $200 less expensive. To date, the Google Home device also lacks any camera or screen features also, and costs about $130 at full price.

It will be interesting to see if Apple loyalists will drive the success of this new device. No doubt there are Apple lovers that have resisted getting a smart home assistant from a competitor, or that are willing to convert their existing smart home hub to the Apple-based hub.

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