Apple to showcase new features for its gadgets

Apple is going to release HomePod in white and space gray colors in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia this December for $349.

Some industry insiders, however, note Apple will be under more pressure to improve the computing smarts of its Siri software in the face of offerings from rivals Google and Amazon. The pricing of Apple's device was shared at the conference in comparison to both smart home speakers as well as premium audio speakers.

Apple is making software tools available for outside app writers to design apps with augmented reality.

Seven beam-forming tweeters and a 4-inch subwoofer handle the audio side of things. The HomePod is powered by Apple's A8 chip and will be available from December in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., which will be getting the initial batch of speakers in White and Space Grey at $349 (roughly Rs. 22,500).

The HomePod understands where it is in the room and what's around it. And Apple has refined music playback using the Watch, including support for multiple playlists.

The Cupertino, California-based company said Siri, which also competes with Alphabet Inc's Google Assistant, will now work across devices. It can be used to send messages over iMessages, receive updates about news and weather, control smart devices, and more.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought. A voice-controlled assistant slots into that neatly, giving you greater control of each piece of your Apple jigsaw. However, if the reports are to be trusted, Apple is indeed working on a competitor to these speakers, but as it always has, the company will pave its own path with Siri speaker.

With an array of six microphones, HomePod has been designed for voice control. It's frustrating yet permissible when Siri stumbles on your phone where you can easily default to your thumbs. Ask Siri to do something on iPhone and it will default to an Apple app wherever possible. It will work seamlessly with Apple Music and the tech giant's HomeKit. Then you're stuffed since you can't change it to Spotify or Google Play Music.

HomePod might be a bit underwhelming, and the unseemly name is equal parts camping gear, alien hive, and dishwashing detergent.

Is it too late for Apple's speaker to be successful?

But for now, Apple is stuck hawking sound quality where many mainstream consumers can't tell the difference.

Siri is getting a new voice on the iPhone - and will come with a male option for the first time.

Siri will soon be front and centre on the Apple Watch, just like the Google Assistant has started showing up on Android Wear smartwatches. It would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015. If you like the song that just played and want to listen to more tunes in that vein, just say "I like this song" or "Play more songs like that".

HomePod users may initially be constrained by Siri's lack of capabilities as compared to Alexa, which also boasts the ability to order millions of Amazon products as well as food from restaurants like Domino's. Google introduced this feature in an app called Motion Stills past year. The sound will need to be spectacular to tempt people to spend the extra cash.

  • Marlene Weaver