Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday with a lengthy keynote filled with products and upgrades. Of course, iOS 11 was a key part of the keynote at WWDC, but there was so much more. “Machine learning” was a key phrase that was repeated time and again as Apple revealed more products and news, and analysts seem to especially like the new HomePod product the company introduced. There was also a little something called the ARKit that could enable developers to build a vast augmented reality ecosystem for Apple, just in time for the release of the iPhone 8 this fall.
What better way to launch a product with new features than by doing so after everyone else has built the ecosystem for that product for you before you even revealed it to the world?
Analysts pick HomePod out from all the products revealed at WWDC
Out of the many announcements Apple had during the WWDC keynote speech, HomePod is the one that some analysts like the best. It’s a smart home speaker designed to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home on the artificial intelligence front and with Sonos on the sound quality front.
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Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White called HomePod the “star of WWDC” because Apple expects it to “reinvent home music.” He expects the product to be a hot gift during the holiday shopping season, as it goes on sale in December in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia with a price tag of $349.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Tim Long describes the price for HomePod as being similar to “the combination of a Sonos Play:3 and an Amazon Echo Dot, though with a more integrated user experience.” However, he believes that Apple will need to do some “meaningful improvement” to Siri in order to “avoid user frustration,” although he added that the company is moving in the right direction on the music-centric commands that were demonstrated at WWDC. Like White, he also expects the HomePod to be a popular gift this year.
Is ARKit paving the way for the iPhone 8?
But what may be more interesting in light of all the rumors about augmented reality on the iPhone 8 is the software development kit (SDK) called ARKit. Augmented reality is a hot topic in the tech community right now, so it should come as no surprise that Apple wants in. But what’s particularly interesting about ARKit is that it’s a way for Apple to get an AR ecosystem built for the iPhone 8 — without having to pay for it and before it has even revealed that the iPhone 8 exists.
It seems like the perfect way to convince more people that they “need” an ultra-pricey iPhone 8 because developers will have already built plenty of augmented reality-based apps for the phone before they even know officially that it exists. On the stage at WWDC, Apple even billed ARKit as “the largest AR platform in the world.”
The Verge describes ARKit as enabling “app makers [to] draw on detailed camera and sensor data to map digital objects into 3D space.” It suggests that the SDK could enable Apple to not only compete better with Google’s Tango in the area of augmented reality for smartphones but also with Facebook’s new Camera app and, of course, Snap. Essentially, ARKit will allow developers add augmented reality features to their own iOS apps, so iPhone users will get just enough of a taste of AR that they will want more when the iPhone 8 arrives.