Apple is working on its own Amazon Echo or Google Home-like device, according to several reports from the last few months.
These reports have claimed that Apple is already testing the product inside Apple employees' homes, and that we may see the device, which is expected to come loaded with support for Siri voice commands, introduced at WWDC 2017 in June. Here's everything you need to know about the speaker so far, including how it might look and what it might feature. Just bear in mind that nothing is confirmed as of yet.
Apple's Siri speaker: What could it be?
Apple has been rumoured to be working on an Amazon Echo or Google Home-like smart speaker since early 2016, around the same time Google introduced its Home speaker and around two years after Amazon launched its popular Echo. Although there has been no confirmation from the company, several reports have surfaced in recent months about the device and how it might differ from rival products.
Apple employees have reportedly been testing the speaker inside their homes for several months, according to Bloomberg. The publication also reported last September that Apple engineers had begun in-home testing of prototypes. In other words, if this is true, we're likely getting closer to an actual unveiling of the product. And many reports are pointing to WWDC 2017 as the perfect venue to announce it.
Apple's Siri speaker: What can you expect?
Siri voice commands
The Information first reported in May 2016 that Apple is working on Echo-like device that could obey voice commands through Siri. The report, which was published prior to WWDC 2016, also explained that Apple planned to open up its Siri assistant to outside app developers by releasing an SDK. The company, of course, did just that, in June 2016, allowing app developers to make their apps accessible through Siri.
CNET also reported in May 2016 that Apple is working on Echo-like device, but it said the device could know who you are just by looking at you. The device will feature a built-in camera and will come in the form of a smart speaker. It'll be "self aware" and detect who is in the room using facial recognition technology. Doing so would allow it to automatically pull up a person's preferences, like music.
Early prototypes of Apple's upcoming speaker, the so-called Siri speaker, for lack of a better name, are said to have included facial recognition sensors, using technology Apple acquired when it bought both Faceshift and Emotient in the last couple of years. It's also been suggested that Apple's speaker could trump the Amazon Echo by featuring more advanced microphone and speaker technologies.
It’s unclear if Apple’s Siri speaker will feature a display - sort of like Amazon’s new Echo Show. It might just be all about audio - like the regular, cylindrical Echo speaker or Google Home. However, Apple executive Phil Schiller recently talked about gadgets with screens rather favourably: “The idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations,” Schiller said in an interview with Gadgets 360 in May 2017.
He noted voice-only assistants can’t show you photos posted to social media, and if you’re asking for directions, you can’t see them on map. “I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful. Their intelligence is going to grow. They're gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this,” he explained, while also making it clear he is unimpressed by existing smart speakers.
“My mother used to have a saying that if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all,” Schiller said.
In April 2017, it was reported that Apple's Siri speaker designs were in the final stages. According to Sonny Dickson, who has hit the nail on the head many times in the past when it comes to leaking Apple news, the company is "finalising designs" for its Echo competitor after two years of development. Posting on Twitter, he added that any device will be marketed as a Siri/Airplay product.
It's also been reported that Apple's Siri speaker will allow you to control your smarthome kit through Siri voice control. Mark Gurman at Bloomberg originally said that the device will be able to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation.
Apple's Siri speaker: What's it look like?
Amazingly, there hasn't been one leak yet to indicate what the device might look like when it launches.
Apple's Siri speaker: When will it launch?
According to reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will announce this Siri smart speaker at its annual developer conference this June and will likely market it as a high-end speaker with built-in Siri, plus superior sound quality and computing power when compared to Echo and Google Home. The Siri speaker should go on sale by Christmas time, even if it's not announced at WWDC 2017.
Apple's Siri speaker: What will it cost?
There's no word yet on US/UK pricing or availability.
Want to know more?
Check out Pocket-lint's WWDC 2017 guide for more details on what to expect from Apple's annual developer conference.