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The once great in­no­va­tor re­verted to “me too” as Ap­ple un­veiled its al­ter­na­tive to Google Home and Ama­zon’s Echo, the HomePod. Yet with a price tag of US$349 (no AU or NZ price an­nounced yet), at least twice that of Ama­zon smart speaker, it seems Ap­ple might be tar­get­ing the Sonos crowd more than Alexa.

Ap­ple made much of the de­vice’s au­dio qual­ity at its launch, pair­ing a 4in high-ex­cur­sion woofer with an ar­ray of seven horn-loaded tweet­ers, each with its own cus­tom am­pli­fier.

AirPlay2 will also de­liver the mul­ti­room mu­sic ex­pe­ri­ence that Sonos of­fers but Google and Ama­zon don’t. It seems clear who Ap­ple has in its sights with this launch.

That wasn’t enough to con­vince some crit­ics. “$349 – one won­ders what al­ter­nate uni­verse Ap­ple is liv­ing in – a huge dis­ap­point­ment,” tweeted Gart­ner an­a­lyst Werner Go­ertz, who spe­cialises in home and voice-ac­ti­vated tech­nol­ogy. “When was the last time I se­ri­ously lis­tened to mu­sic ren­dered in less than stereo?”

The de­vice won’t be on sale un­til De­cem­ber, per­haps giv­ing Ap­ple more time to broaden the fea­ture set.

KEY SPECS US$359 • www.ap­ple.com 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO • Air­Play 2 • 2.5kg • 172 x 142 x 142 (WDH) • US$349 • avail­able De­cem­ber 2017

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