Apple Announces Smart Speaker, Device Upgrades, and iOS 11

The next big iPhone update is going to save you some serious storage space

The next big iPhone update is going to save you some serious storage space

"Apple will carve out some sales in the smart speaker market with HomePod but will continue to stand far behind Amazon and Google by the end of 2017", Ronan de Renesse, of the analysis firm Ovum, said in an email.

Rather than taking on Amazon's Echo and Google Home, however, analysts see HomePod less as a "smart assistant", and more as a pure music player. Like Apple TV, the HomePod allows for remote access to any HomeKit compatible device through the Home app.

As was the case at Google's I/O conference a few weeks ago, Apple's annual WWDC is less a consumer event than a chance to set the stage for the new items announced throughout the rest of the year.

Apple said nothing about VOIP calls and other forms of communication via the HomePod though. This is nothing new in and of itself; both Amazon Echo and Google Home offer similar facilities.

Like those other products it is created to be a digital home assistant, capable of answering questions about maths as well as music-related enquiries - but it comes with some Apple quirks. Limp was quick to point out that you could get eight Echo Dots for the price of HomePod, and then connect the Echo Dots to any speaker with a line out connection or Bluetooth. The Sonos Play:3 doesn't have a display but in the speakers defence it doesn't need one; it's not a smart speaker and all controls are made using the Sonos app on either iPhone, iPad or the Mac.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads include messages that sync to Apple servers in the cloud.

Siri can also be used manage smart devices on a home network, such as heating and lighting.

SAN JOSE Apple is hoping a new smart home speaker will strike a chord with music lovers - the latest test of the iPhone maker's ability to redefine markets originally staked out by its rivals.

"Though Apple appears to be playing catch up with Amazon and Google, the primary casualty here may be Sonos".

It will cost $349 when it ships in December in the US, UK and Australia.

Again, the difference, though, is Apple's focus on making the most high-end speaker they can that still has smarts.

Meanwhile, Apple has also ensured that the HomePod will be a home assistant, working hard to deliver artificial intelligence that enables the device to answer all manner of questions.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014.

Apple has given Siri new male and female voices, described as more natural and expressive, and added abilities such as translating English phrases into Chinese, French, German, Italian or Spanish. Whether this will really assuage the fears of people concerned that Apple is effectively spying on them with Siri is highly debatable, particularly in the existing post-Snowden climate. But it's tough to try to compare them to one another because of how Apple is positioning the HomePod.

Still, the HomePod is a big step up from Apple's last speaker product (remember 2006's Apple Hi-Fi?).

The new version of Apple's mobile operating system has received a series of updates, including an update to Siri. For example, the tech giant unveiled iOS 11, which has some pretty neat features - users will now be able to "drag and drop" text and other items between apps.

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