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Apple have announced their new HomePod smart speaker.

HomePod, which is powered by Apple's voice assistant, Siri, is set to challenge Amazon's (AMZN) Echo.

At the firm's WWDC conference, Apple focused on HomePod as a new way to listen to music in the home, with Apple saying their aim was to "reinvent home music".

Apple is only making its Siri-controlled HomePod smart speaker available sometime in December 2017, so why did they showcase the device this early?

There are also seven "beam-forming tweeters" - read as speakers - each with their own amplifier, running around the entire circumference of the HomePod.

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Apple explains it as "Apple-Designed Home Music Speaker with Amazing Sound Quality and Intelligence".

HomePod is a rounded cylinder about 7-inches tall (it looks like the "trashcan" Mac Pro). And, with HomeKit integration similar to what's available on the iPhone, the user can ask Siri, via their HomePod to control connected devices in their home. The company "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight. Google and Apple have an entire library of features that the Echo lacks but, at the end of the day, Amazon Echo does come with Prime music and Spotify. Maybe Alexa will have some company soon. Siri also got some new features: It will now use deep learning processes to present more natural male and female voices, meaning that Siri can vary word intonation. But the product seems directly inspired by existing smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Amazon and Google are running away with the market that the Echo helped create. Apple say it will launch at a price of $349 (roughly £270) in the U.S., with official pricing for Australia and the United Kingdom will be released later this year. And, connecting with Apple's HomeKit, controlling automated homes without having to use Siri on the iPhone or Watch finally comes home.

One major sticking point for consumers may be the HomePod's $350 price tag, which makes it twice as expensive as Amazon's Echo. But the ability to work with third-parties is part of what makes them most useful. For those concerned about security, Apple says all communications with the HomePod will be encrypted. Amazon Echo Vs Apple HomePod is a competition worth seeing, but I believe that Apple lags in this race big time. Like other smart speakers, audio information isn't sent to Apple's cloud until this voice command has been issued, Apple said.

Not shy of making bold claims, Apple claim HomePod is a "breakthrough wireless speaker for the home that delivers unbelievable audio quality". Again, we've heard the audio performance of the Echo for ourselves, and we'd put it just slightly below the Google Home - it'll do for a party or some casual listening but serious music enthusiasts are going to be left wanting.