New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

After more than two hours of chit chat about iOS 11, the MacBook and iPad Pro at the Worldwide Developers Conference this morning, Apple finally announced something the general public might be very interested in.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014. But is the £270 device good enough to topple the Amazon Echo and Google Home?

Of course there's always the chance that Apple will put significant effort into improving Siri before the HomePod is released in December.

Apple also announced the next version of its mobile operating system - iOS 11 - which will include a new setting for people who use their iPhone in the vehicle. Another Safari feature will stop video from automatically playing on websites.

Communication with Siri is encrypted and it won't start listening until it hears "Hey Siri". For example, duplicating a file will be almost instant. Other audio bits are also available for streaming like news, podcasts, time-based apps and translation. It can have up to 22 teraflops of graphics power.

On the technological side, Apple's virtual demonstration of why HomePod is a superior speaker was all about the device's ability to recognize the space it was filling. In addition to music control, Siri can provide weather, traffic, sports, homekit control, messages, reminders, and more. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds.

Starting in iOS 10, released past year, the software built in a safeguarding engine, dubbed "differential privacy", that effectively scrubs and adds noise to user data so that the company can't tell where it's coming from but can still provide useful feedback to the user.

It's turning to machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to make that happen. The phone will block most notifications to reduce temptations behind the wheel. Schiller said devices like the Amazon Echo have poor sound quality, and wifi speakers like Sonos don't have interactive voice assistants.

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The event began with an Apple video portraying what life might be like without an app store. It would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015. In other words, it doesn't look more intelligent than the Echo. It all sounds very fine, and it will nearly certainly be packaged in an attractive, high-quality build that's intuitive to use.

However, he questioned the practicality of augmented reality on a smartphone. There are new watch faces. It will also be possible to exchange data between gym equipment and the watch. It is coming out this fall and will be a free update.

If you hit workout goals, you'll now get fancier animations to give you a greater sense of satisfaction.

The tech giant announced the updated iMacs would have new, faster processors as well as "43% brighter" displays. The new 10.5-inch model offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model couldn't. It has a number of speed and performance improvements, and has a 12 megapixel back camera.

And Apple will have a new "do not disturb" mode for driving.

Apple Inc. entered the growing field of voice-controlled speakers for the home on Monday, taking on early leaders Inc. and Google. Beats Electronics was also working on a Wifi-equipped speaker when it was acquired by Apple in 2014, but Apple made a decision to kill the project before it was publicly announced. The device is covered in black or white mesh and looks like the top of a microphone. Part of its success has been due to Amazon's willingness to let external developers create "skills" for the assistant.

Apple isn't just going after Amazon.

Amazon's Echo commands 70.6 percent of the USA market and Google Home has 23.8 percent, according to a recent eMarketer report.