Apple sets sights on future tech to stay ahead with HomePod, augmented reality and more

Lynsey Barber
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Keynote Address Opens Apple Worldwide Developers Conference
Siri features in Apple's new home speaker (Source: Getty)

Apple has unveiled HomePod, a smart home speaker powered by Siri, taking on Amazon and Google which have already stolen a march in the hotly tipped space.

The device was touted by Apple vice president Phil Schiller with a focus on its musical prowess and tight controls over privacy.

"Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod will reinvent music in our homes," he said on stage at its developer conference WWDC in California.

"No one's quite nailed it yet" he said of the increasing number of home speakers and voice assistants on the market, Alexa-powered Amazon Echo and Google Assistant on the Google Home speaker being two of them.

Read more: It's official: Apple unveils HomePod, a smart home speaker

"It is little surprise that Apple has decided to launch a smart speaker," said CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber.

“It can’t afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people’s homes to Amazon, Google and others as access to content, information and search becomes pervasive and less dependent on the smartphone."

At $349 (£270), the device is more expensive than rivals’, however Apple made a feature of the fact voice data is only sent to it encrypted and anonomysed. It will go on sale in selected countries, including the UK, in December.

Apple also unveiled plans for a new iPhone operating system, iOS 11, which will bring with it a new feature giving PayPal and Square a run for their money. It will add peer-to-peer payments that let users send money to each other using only a text message.

Read more: Now you'll be able to pay your friends via an iPhone message

It's an area of payments dominated by PayPal in the US - its Venmo app processes more than $1bn of payments a month. And Square, Jack Dorsey’s payments company which recently launched in the UK, has a similar feature called Square Cash in the US.

It’s the third feature to be added to Apple Pay. It initially launched in 2015, letting people pay with the swipe of an iPhone at tills. It then added support for payments on websites last year.

Apple also revealed other new plans and products: tools for developers to build apps that use virtual reality and artificial intelligence, a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro and that Amazon Prime Video will become available through Apple TV.

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