Apple unveils new smart speaker named the HomePod and new operating system ahead of iPhone 8 launch

Rod Chester - News CorpThe West Australian
Apple promises its new speaker will ‘reinvent’ home music.
Camera IconApple promises its new speaker will ‘reinvent’ home music. Credit: AP

Apple has unveiled a smart speaker, opened the door for a new wave of smarter augmented reality and launched a swag of new products and software that sets the path ahead for the iPhone 8 later this year.

CEO Tim Cook promised that the speaker, the first new product line (apart from the Apple Watch) that Apple has launched since the passing of Steve Jobs, will "reinvent home music".

He made the announcement at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Diego as Apple unveiled a swag of hardware and software upgrades including to Apple TV, its smartwatch and a new operating system for the iPhone 8.

Phil Schiller, senior Vice President of marketing, took to the stage to announce "a breakthrough home speaker" that would have the cleverness of a smart speaker and the versatility of a wireless system like Sonos.

The Apple smart speaker is called the HomePod.

"Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes," Mr Schiller said.

It’s about 17cm tall and has seven tweeters and a large woofer and is powered by the A8 chip, the same chip that powers the iPhone.

Schiller listed off detailed specs before getting to the point: "Just knows it sounds incredible."

The speaker automatically detects the space it is in to give the best space for the sound. The Sonos speaker range has a similar feature.

The HomePod smart features include the ability to ask for weather and news, set alarms, and control any smart devices in the home such as lighting and heating.

Schiller stressed the privacy of the settings with the speaker.

The speaker will not listen until it hears Hey Siri. Then it sends information anonymously to the cloud.

One thing not on the HomePod speaker that some people tipped is a touch screen.

It is coming out in December, with Australia among the first countries to get the speaker. No local price has been announced as yet.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, speaks about iPhone developments.
Camera IconCraig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, speaks about iPhone developments. Credit: AP

Augmented reality on your iPhone

Meanwhile, Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering. announced changes coming to Apple computers with a software update.

It also announced upgrades to the iPhone which would see the addition of augmented reality (AR).

Mr Federighi announced there would be new development tools for app developers called an AR Kit to easily add AR images into the next generation of apps.

In a demo, he pointed an iPhone at the empty table and then added a coffee cup and a lamp, with the shadow of the lamp changing as the AR cup is moved around the space.

The company also unveiled a new operating system that sets the path ahead for the release of the iPhone 8 later this year.

In a pitch to kick off the Worldwide Developers Conference with a laugh, the Apple keynote began with a video of the apocalyptic future that would happen if somebody pulled the plug at Apple and all the apps disappeared from the world.

Tim Cook took to the stage after the video with the remark: "I’m so glad that really can’t happen."

"This is going to be the best and biggest WWDC ever," Mr Cook said to set the scene for the two hours to follow.

VideoAmazon Prime is coming to Apple TV, it has been announced.

A young Aussie in the spotlight

The conference has 5300 attendees from 75 countries in the world, but Mr Cook chose the 10-year-old Australian app developer Yuma Soerianto as the first one to mention.

Mr Cook met Yuma yesterday and was impressed that the primary school student who started coding at aged six already has five apps in the App Store.

While there have been plenty of guesses about what the tech giant had up its sleeve, there hadn’t been many solid leaks ahead of the event.

Mr Cook, who kicked off the keynote at 3am AEST, announced there were six key areas to get upgrades today.

The first big news for the Apple TV device is that Amazon Prime video is coming to the Apple TV as an app, which will make it easier for people to watch content such as Transparent and the new Top Gear show.

Kevin Lynch, one of the key creators of the Apple Watch, took to the stage to announce changes to what is the world’s most popular smartwatch with an update to the Watch OS.

The first change to the Watch is that there is a new Siri watch face which uses machine learning to give you information based on your routines. For instance, at the start of the day the Watch face will dynamically deliver traffic information on your route to work.

The second new watch face is a kaleidoscope for those who like a trippy experience on their smartwatch.

There are three new Toy Story figures that now have their own faces, joining the popular Mickey Mouse face.

The fitness aspect of the Watch is getting changes, with new animations when you complete your fitness rings and monthly updates.

Apple’s new developments mean you will be able to share with friends what you are listening to.
Camera IconApple’s new developments mean you will be able to share with friends what you are listening to. Credit: AP

There is a new interface for the native workout app on the Watch, and the swimming app gets an improvement to auto pause if you rest at the end of each lap and it will detect the type of stroke on each lap.

There is a new feature for gym junkies that will pair the Apple Watch with treadmills and other equipment so that it will be able to send the details of the way you use the equipment, from pace to incline for example, to your Watch. This fixes the problem at the moment where the treadmill screen doesn’t match the data on your Watch.

Other changes with WatchOS include improvements to the way you flick through music and switch between apps.

Another improvement with WatchOS includes opening up Bluetooth so that devices such as a third-party continuous glucose monitor can deliver information straight to the Apple Watch.

Prior to this event, there were rumours that Apple might unveil its own non-invasive blood sugar level monitor.

Tim Cook set up the scene for the speaker’s unveiling with "one last thing to talk about".

"This is the product that many people in the room have been hoping for today. We have such a great portable music experience but what about our homes," he said.

"Just like we did with portable music, we want to reinvent home music."

This is the first new product line, apart from the Apple Watch, that Apple has launched since the passing of Steve Jobs.

There will be a new operating system for Macs.
Camera IconThere will be a new operating system for Macs. Credit: AP

New operating system for Macs

There is a new operating system coming for Macs, with the theme of Californian hiking zones continuing in the naming system. This year we have gone from MacOS Sierra it is MacOS High Sierra.

One feature that is likely to be popular with some people is the ability to stop videos on websites from auto playing.

Another improvement that is going to be welcomed by many is an improvement to the face recognition system in the Photos app, and the faces you identify will now synch across Apple devices.

There are also major improvements to the Photo editing, that gives it features that bring it closer to something like Photoshop.

Apple promises its new speaker will ‘reinvent’ home music.
Camera IconApple promises its new speaker will ‘reinvent’ home music. Credit: AP

One of the biggest changes to MacOS is a new file system. For users, that means that processes like copying large videos will be much faster.

MacOS will be available today for developers. It will be released for the general consumer free in spring.

Apple announced new iMacs with brighter screens able to display more colours, faster processors, better graphics, faster drives and the addition of USB-C ports, along with normal USB ports, on the back.

The improvements are technical upgrades, mainly aimed at the professional graphics market, rather than a new form factor for the Apple desktop computer.

Along with new iMacs, there are new MacBook Pro models with faster chips and faster graphics. Across the two ranges, Apple released seven new models of computers that are available from today.

It has announced a iMac Pro, with a 27-inch screen, that Apple said "the most powerful Mac we’ve ever made".

This is aimed at the professional market, rather than home users, with a 18-core processor that drew gasps from the developers when it was announced. The iMac Pro will be released in December.

Tim Cook came back to the stage to spruik the new operating system for iPhones and iPads.

"Today we’re going to take the world’s best and most advanced mobile operating system and turn it up to 11," he said.

Mr Federighi went through the details of the operating system he called "a big one".

Messages, which changed significantly in iOS 10 with apps and stickers, now changes with Messages in iCloud so that it synchs across all of your Apple devices.

Now, if you delete a message on your iPhone it will now delete across all devices.

Apple Pay upgrade

Apple Pay gets a major change allowing for the first time people to make person to person payments.

"It is integrated right in to Messages as a Messages app," Mr Federighi said.

If you need to pay a family or friend money, you send it as a message using your fingerprint to identify yourself.

Siri gets an upgrade to its voice so that the syntax has more context. In an example, Siri announced the weather for the next three days would be "sunny, sunny and sunny" with a different emphasis on each word.

Siri will now be able to translate from English to a handful of languages. So if you’re tying to order something in another country, you tell Siri in English and it announces it in the other language. So far it only ports English to Chines, French, German, Italian and Spanish with more languages to be added later.

Apple continues to be the only tech company that offers a digital assistant with both a male and a female voice.

The iPhone is already the world’s most popular camera, and the Photos app gets some improvements including better compression for videos and photos so that they take up less room on your iPhone.

The demo of the new operating system showed an improved control panel, with all of the controls now on one page rather than the current system of spread across two screens.

Other changes to the iOS include improvements to Live Photos so you can create controlled loops, like animated GIFs, and extra editing features so you can give running water that blur that is normally achieved through using a slow shutter speed on a camera on a tripod.

Maps is also getting an improvements with internal maps to shopping malls and airports, although the initial areas supported do not include any locations in Australia.

The biggest changes to Maps to make driving area are that the Map will now show the speed you are doing in the car and give you lane guidance, so you know what lane you need to be in before you get to the turn.

There is also a Do Not Disturb While Driving mode that hides your notifications when driving. The mode can also text a message reply to someone saying that the driver is unavailable and will return the message later. You can identify VIPs so that their messages will appear even if the phone is in Do Not Disturb While Driving mode.

The HomePod was unveiled to great interest.
Camera IconThe HomePod was unveiled to great interest. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

Sharing your music

There are changes to Apple’s streaming service Apple Music.

You can now make a profile public to your friends so that they can see what you’re listening to, and you can see their music tastes to get recommendations.

One of the biggest changes coming to the iPhone and iPad are changes to the App Store.

Phil Schiller took to the stage to talk about the changes to the App Store. There has now been 180 billion downloads from the App Store and Apple has paid US$70 billion ($95 billion) to developers.

Apple has redesigned the App Store with a new interface that starts with a tab called Today, encouraging people to discover a new app every day, and gives the App Store a look similar to Apple News rather than just a dull directory of the current App Store.

The App Store is now separated into tabs for Games and Apps. Every day there is a new app of the day, game of the day and daily list on a different topic each day.

The Games tab has more built-in preview videos that play as you scroll through.

The rumours that Apple has been considering how to implement augmented reality into the iPhone are true.

Mr Federighi announced there would be new development tools for app developers called AR Kit to easily add AR images into the next generation of apps.

In a demo, he pointed an iPhone at the empty table and then added a coffee cup and a lamp, with the shadow of the lamp changing as the AR cup is moved around the space.

For consumers, this means there will be a lot more apps like Pokemon Go coming to the App Store.

Apple has been working with some companies in trailing the technology, including Ikea which lets you add AR furniture into your house, and Federighi demonstrated an AR Lego app which let you build and pull apart Lego models in AR.

In another demonstration of an app called Wingnut AR, a whole movie-like invasion scene played out in augmented reality on an empty table. The difference between this level of AR and Pokemon Go is like the difference between a stick figure drawing and a Picasso.

Apple’s efforts to stop the slide of the iPad market continues with the release of a new iPad Pro with a screen that sits between the current 9.7-inch model and the 13-inch model.

The new iPad Pro has a 10.5-inch display which allows for a full-sized onscreen keyboard and a full-sized Smart Keyboard. Because the border around the display is smaller, this iPad has a bigger screen but similar physical size to the 9.7-inch screen.

A faster iPad pro

The new iPad Pro has a faster chip than the previous iPads. It has a 40 per cent faster graphics performance than the previous model and is 500 times faster than that of the original iPad.

The iPad Pro has a 12 megapixel sensor with optical image stabilisation, although it doesn’t have the dual lens camera of the iPhone 7 Plus. The front facing camera is a 7 megapixel camera.

The new iPad Pro 10.7-inch replaces the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in the range. The new iPad Pro is available today and will ship next week.

There are changes to iOS 11 that are just for the iPad, including an extended dock to have all of your apps available at the bottom of the screen.

The biggest change, however, is the long-requested drag and drop feature between apps, allowing you to touch something in one app and drop it in another.

For instance, you can split the screen to see a web browser and an email side-by-side, and drag an image off the web straight into the message.

You can also drag a file out of Files and drop it into an email as an attachment. The addition of drag and drop is a key feature for Apple pushing the iPad Pro as a productivity tool.

"It’s a drag fest," Federighi said.

There is also a new app called Files which lets you bring together all of your files and works with cloud services such as Dropbox.

Developers will be able to get a beta version of iOS 11 today and it will be released free in the third quarter for consumers this year.

Attendees take photos at San Jose McEnery Convention Center during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference.
Camera IconAttendees take photos at San Jose McEnery Convention Center during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. Credit: AFP

Prices and availability

The HomePod will sell for US$349. Apple has not announce an Australian price as yet.

New iPad Pro models available to order online from today and will start delivering to customers next week.

10.5-inch iPad Pro starts at RRP $979 inc. GST for the 64GB with Wi-Fi model, and starts at RRP $1,179 inc. GST for the 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at RRP $1199 inc. GST for the 64GB Wi-Fi model, and starts at RRP $1,399 inc. GST for the 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

Apple Pencil RRP $145 inc. GST.

10.5-inch Smart Keyboard RRP $235 inc. GST

12.9-inch Smart Keyboard RRP $245 inc. GST macOS

High Sierra availability: macOS High Sierra developer preview available to Apple Developer Program members starting today

Public beta available to Mac users in late June.

macOS High Sierra will be available this spring as a free software

The all-new App Store will be included with iOS 11

The developer preview of iOS 11 is available to iOS Developer Program members starting today, and a public beta program will be available to iOS users later this month

iOS 11 will be available this spring as a free software update for iPhone 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation, iPad mini 2 and later and iPod touch

Updated iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air available to order today online, and available to buy in Apple Stores from Wednesday, 7 June.

Updated 21.5-inch iMac starts from RRP $1,899 inc. GST

Updated 13-inch MacBook Pro starts from RRP $1,899 inc. GST

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