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Mobile

The HomePod Shows Apple Will Be Apple

It can be hard to forget that the iPhone was not the first cell phone. It wasn’t even the first smartphone. Whether or not the iPhone is the “best” smartphone, it’s the world’s most popular.

This is how Apple does things. They are innovators, yes, but also perfecters. Computers, tablets, smartwatches all existed before Apple’s first iterations, and yet Apple always seems to put out the “best” version: a product that looks nicer, works a bit more seamlessly, at a marked up price—which then re-sets the standard moving forward.

This seems again to be the tact Apple has taken with the in-home personal assistant speaker. At their Worldwide Developers Conference event this past week, Apple released the HomePod, their long-awaited answer to Amazon Echo and Google Home. What you first notice about the HomePod, other than the marked up price ($350), is its sleek, minimalist look. In a word, it looks very Apple.

And in true Apple fashion, it’s not just taking on the products that immediately come to mind, but those on the periphery. High-end bluetooth speakers: beware. A large part of the reveal was the HomePod as a premier music speaker thanks to the high equality speaker system inside. The audio quality will far exceed Echo and Google Home, which means it might slip in and upend products from Bose and Sonos.

Obviously the jury remains out on whether or not the HomePod will be a functional improvement over Echo and Google Home. Skeptics will remain, as Siri has for many lagged behind Alexa and Google Assistant when it comes to voice command reliability. It’s believable that Apple has waited this long on the personal assistant speaker because it knew Siri needed to be improved.

The idea of mobility has long been tied to the device in your hand. Voice-recognition technology points towards a different future, one where we can get everything we need without the need to press buttons or type. It might look a bit like Her, Spike Jonez’s film where mobile devices look like tiny booklets and people are conversing constantly (and some falling in love) with their virtual assistants. Apple knows that the underlying technology is where the real opportunity lies. Also highlighted during the event was Apple’s offering of a new augmented reality toolkit for app developers. Like the home assistant space, Apple hasn’t made a big play into AR or VR yet, but it’s knocking.

If the past has taught us anything, Apple won’t be the one to outright create the future of new mobility. But it might dominate it all the same.

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