Apple unveils its first new product in years with its 'HomePod' speaker


We'll be updating this article as and when we know more so please stay tuned.

It brings Apple into direct competition with such offerings as Amazon's Echo and Google's Home.

The cylindrical speaker, known as the "HomePod", resembles the Mac Pro at 7in tall and promises to "reinvent music in the home".

Two colours: The device will come in white and space grey. It is aimed at automatically adjusting the audio using spatial awareness to sense its location in a room. It's the company's strong association with music that allows it to, initially at least, positioned the HomePod mainly as an AI-powered music speaker. Not only will it be able to play any songs or playlists in your library, but it's also capable of maintaining a dynamic playlist.

Apple also introduced the HomePod speaker to compete with Amazon's Alexa assistant and Echo devices, for users who prefer voice-operated systems for shopping, planning and other tasks. There is also real opportunity for integrating home automation via HomeKit compatible gadgets.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

So, if audio is so important to the HomePod - and will justify that whopping $349 price tag - how does it really sound? It will be priced at $349 in the United States, with local pricing announced later in the year.

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Bolstering its support of this in-house AI assistant, as well as revealing the HomePod, Apple has launched a Siri-based watch face as part of watchOS4, describing it as "an intelligent proactive assistant right on your wrist" that "displays the information users need most throughout the day using Siri intelligence" such as traffic delay information to usual commutes.

The moves announced Monday escalate Apple's technological battle of wits with Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. It will utilise Apple music and Siri to do everything from play music to control other smart home appliances.

More broadly, Apple has built tools for artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and now the company is starting to let outside developers use those tools to enhance their own applications.

Of course, premium pricing is Apple's typical strategy, and the company attempts to justify this premium by saying that the combined cost of a Wi-Fi speaker and a smart speaker can easily run $400 to $700. For example, the number of security orders from U.S. law enforcement to Apple doubled to about 6,000 during the second half of 2016, compared with the first six months of the year, the company disclosed in late May. Amazon bundles Prime Music into a Prime membership, but most people don't sign up for Prime for music streaming.

The other thing all that technology does is separate most audio into the front and ambient sounds.

Apple will be looking to the new product to help shore up falling iPhone revenues.

Around 5,300 attendees from 75 countries worldwide travelled to attend WWDC, with the younger developer aged just 10 years-old.