Apple Debuts HomePod Smart Speaker

Apple joins the wireless smart speaker club
By Lisa Johnston,

Apple took the wraps off its first wireless smart speaker, the HomePod, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Monday.

It also introduced a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro and previewed the upcoming iOS 11.

Designed to work with an Apple Music subscription and featuring built-in Siri technology, the almost 7-inch HomePod will come in white and Space Gray. It has an upward-firing woofer, touch controls, seven tweeters meant to provide omnidirectional sound, and six microphones.

It will ship in December at a $349 suggested retail.

Consumers can use voice control to search for music and, saying, “Hey Siri, I like this song,” the platform will learn preferences. Advanced searches will even tell users the particular musician playing in a song. The HomePod can also be used as a hub to control HomeKit accessories.

Room-sensing technology allows the speaker to learn its position in a room, and will tailor the sound output based on its placement.

Apple also introduced a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro and previewed the upcoming iOS 11 today at the annual developers’ event.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro size will remain, but will be refreshed with the new technology upgrades.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro has a Retina display with wide color gamut and weighs about 1 pound. Apple’s new ProMotion technology is designed to automatically adjusts the display to the movement of the content, employing refresh rates of up to 120 Hz. ProMotion also improves display quality, said Apple, and reduces power consumption by matching refresh rates with tablet movement.

Antireflective coating on the Retina display is said to make content easier to see indoors and out.

The iPad Pro also features the new 64-bit A10X Fusion chip, a six-core CPU, 12-core GPU, 12-megapixel back camera, 7-megapixel front camera, four speakers, and support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and LTE Advanced. 

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro comes in silver, Space Gray, gold and Rose Gold and starts at $649 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi model and $779 for the 64 GB model with Wi-Fi and cellular. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is available in silver, Space Gray and gold and starts at $799 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi model and $929 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Pre-orders begin this week, and shipping starts next week.

Apple also previewed its upcoming iOS 11, which will include such advancements as Multi-Touch Drag And Drop to move files from one app to another. A Files app will store everything in one place, whether files are stored locally, in iCloud Drive or across other providers, the company said.

In addition, a new document scanner in Notes will scan single- or multi-page documents, removing shadows and enhancing readability. The new iOS will be released this fall.