With HomePod, Apple Makes Belated Entry Into Smart Home Market

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With HomePod, Apple Makes Belated Entry Into Smart Home Market

With its introduction of the HomePod virtual assistant, Apple is challenging Amazon and Google in a market they have had months to get established. Announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, HomePod is a smart home hub designed to compete with Amazon’s Echo, which has been on the market for just about two years, and Google Home, which has been available in the U.S. since November 2016. The HomePod, which Apple says will offer high-end sound, will be powered by Siri, the company's virtual assistant, and work with third-party apps and smart home components when it's released in December. Apple is confident enough about the product that it says the HomePod will dominate the marketplace in 2018. But with a lofty price tag and stiff competition from innovative alternatives, Apple might not bowl over the market like it has so many times before.

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HomePod Is Primarily a Smart Speaker

While the HomePod will compete against the Amazon Echo and Google Home in the smart home, Apple claims its major attraction will be sound. With seven tweeters that deliver 360-degree sound, the HomePod’s sound quality will match those of high-end speakers and not the rather disappointing sound users get from other smart home hubs, the company added. In addition, the HomePod comes with six microphones to enable it to effectively hear and respond to commands.

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Siri Provides the Smarts

Thanks to Apple’s Siri virtual personal assistant, HomePod users can issue voice commands to control applications and devices, as well as search the web and set timers, among other features. Siri will play a central role in all HomePod functions.

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It Tunes Itself to a Room's Acoustics

Unlike its competitors, the HomePod has the ability to tune itself to ensure it plays the best-sounding audio for the room in which it’s in. According to Apple, the device analyzes a room’s acoustics and will adjust its sound to direct audio across the room. It’s unclear how well it’ll work, but Apple says the feature will allow the HomePod to be placed anywhere in a room and still deliver high-quality sound.

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HomePods Team Up to Provide a Whole-House Solution

The more HomePods, the better the experience—at least that’s what Apple is counting on customers discovering. When two HomePods are in the same room, they’ll identify each other and automatically deliver stereo sound. The hubs also support AirPlay 2, allowing the speakers to communicate with each other anywhere in the home so users can play music all over the house.

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A Smart Home Controller—With a Catch

Audio may be the HomePod’s main feature, but its hub will also support the smart home. Users will be able to issue voice commands to turn lights on and off, manage thermostat settings and much more. However, only products that work with Apple’s HomeKit will be compatible with HomePod commands.

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The Most Powerful Smart Home Hub Ever?

Apple claimed at the Worldwide Developers Conference that the HomePod is the most powerful smart home hub ever announced. It achieves that honor by running on the A8 processor, which Apple says will be able to respond to commands and buffer audio far more quickly than competing devices.

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(Nearly) No Wires

Aside from its power cable, the HomePod is a wireless device that can connect to networks over 802.11ac WiFi. The speakers can communicate with each other wirelessly, so users don’t need to link them with wires.

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Too Many App Questions Remain

One of the big questions Apple hasn’t yet answered is which apps and smart home products will work with the HomePod. Apple is planning to release more HomePod details in the coming months and will likely announce app partners before the device’s launch, but until it does so, it’s hard to say how its smart home features will compete with Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.

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What’s With the Top Pad?

Apple has been surprisingly coy about the HomePod’s top pad. What we do know is that the pad, which has LED lighting built-in, will be touch-capable, allowing users to play, pause and adjust volume with their fingers. It’ll also display a Siri icon when the virtual assistant is listening. But Apple hasn’t said whether more features are coming to the HomePod’s pad. That has caused many to speculate that the company will announce new functions before its release.

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Is the HomePod Worth the High Price Tag?

Apple will release the HomePod in December for a whopping $349. Apple tried to justify the price by saying that buying a high-end speaker and virtual assistant together would cost far more. But at $349, the HomePod nearly doubles the price of the $179 Amazon Echo and makes the $129 Google Home look downright cheap in comparison. Even Amazon’s new Echo Show, which comes with a touch screen, will only cost $230 when it’s released later in June.

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Devolutions Centralizes Remote Desktop Management with RDM V11.7

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