“Hey Siri, who played the drums on this song?” “Hey Siri, set up for a house party” “Hey Siri, dim the lights then play some Crowded House”

Australian T3 - - APPLE BITES BACK -

Ever since it launched in 2011, Siri has been con­fined to Ap­ple smart­phones and com­put­ers, un­able to break free in the way Ama­zon’s dig­i­tal as­sis­tant Alexa or Google’s As­sis­tant have. But now, nearly six years on from its de­but, Siri is fi­nally mov­ing into liv­ing rooms via the HomePod, a Siri-pow­ered, voice-con­trolled Wi-Fi speaker with an A8 chip for brains.


Ap­ple’s new toy (ship­ping this De­cem­ber for US$349, and a lo­cal price ex­pected soon) is crammed with seven beam-form­ing tweet­ers and an up­ward-fir­ing woofer, de­signed to pro­ject a sound tai­lored to the size of room it’s placed in. As much as it seems like a com­peti­tor to Ama­zon Echo or Google Home, the HomePod is con­cerned with mu­sic and sound qual­ity first. Yes it can turn off your smart lights, but would rather blast out some AC/DC – and then sug­gest sim­i­lar bands.

At just un­der 18 cen­time­tres tall, the HomePod is cer­tainly small for the tech it’s hous­ing. The smart speaker uses room-sens­ing tech to learn where it’s po­si­tioned and to an­a­lyse the room’s acous­tics, in­tel­li­gently tun­ing its out­put to sound great in that space. The speaker also pro­vides ac­cess to Ap­ple Mu­sic, with Siri find­ing tracks. Nat­u­rally, there’s multi-room sup­port: add more HomePods around the house and the speak­ers com­mu­ni­cate via Air­Play 2, which means you can use the HomePod to con­trol other Air­Play 2com­pat­i­ble speak­ers. Place two HomePods in a room and they’ll au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect and bal­ance one an­other, pro­duc­ing an im­mer­sive sound ex­pe­ri­ence.

The mul­ti­ple tweet­ers have their own amps, for a fully di­rec­tional sound, and even the woofer is smart – an al­go­rithm analy­ses the mu­sic play­ing and dy­nam­i­cally tunes the low fre­quen­cies.

Touchy-feely types will also dig Ap­ple’s in­te­grated con­trols – tap the top of the speaker to play, pause or ad­just vol­ume. The setup is easy, too – just hold your iPhone next to the HomePod to kick-start things.

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