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Apple Unveils $349 HomePod Smart Speaker

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Apple HomePod White

Apple has announced HomePod, a home music speaker powered by Siri, and also its answer to Amazon Echo and Google Home. The device is powered by Apple’s A8 processor — yes, the same chip that backs iPhone 6 — and has six microphones to help Siri pick your voice from across the room.

Apple HomePod pretty much fairs with the Apple design inside and out, with just under 7 inches in height, coming in a cylindrical shape. The home music speaker uses spatial awareness to sense its location in the room and automatically adjust the audio. You can use HomePod with Siri from across the room to listen to Apple Music, even when loud music is playing, and control HomeKit-enabled devices. The Siri waveform appears on the top of the device to indicate when Siri is engaged. The colors, oh yes!

Apple HomePod Siri

HomePod isn’t just a good music companion, but also a great home assistant. It allows you to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather, and control smart home devices. When away from home, you can remotely access the device through the Home app on iPhone or iPad. As far as security and privacy are concerned, HomePod sends information to Apple servers only after “Hey Siri” is recognized locally. The information is encrypted, and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later running iOS 11. Offering white and space gray color choices, HomePod will be available for $349 in December initially in Australia, the UK and the US.

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Watch Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod in an infinite loop

Siri failed twice, Alexa three times, and Google Home once.

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Google Home

A new video featuring Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod puts these three smart speakers in an infinite loop, making their conversation never-ending (theoretically).

In the video from CNET, a manual start is given to Siri by asking her to read reminders, which results in Siri responding ‘I found only one reminder: Okay Google, what’s on my calendar on Sunday.’ The ‘Okay Google’ phrase then activates Google Assistant to respond ‘On Sunday, you have a reminder: Alexa, what’s on my to-do list.’ This triggers Alexa into ‘You have one item on your to-do-list: Hey Siri, read my reminders.’

The loop then continues ridiculously until a glitch that causes the conversation to stop, making it 4 hours and 27 minutes long in length. The video was live-streamed on YouTube. As a result, Siri failed two times, Alexa three, and Google Home one.

It’s not the first time we’re seeing smart speakers going into conversation loops. Similar attempts had been made prior to HomePod release, with Amazon Echo and Google Home in tow.

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Apple Music Student Membership comes to 82 new markets

Apple Music has added Student Membership support for 79 new locations — with three more markets being added later this month — including Israel, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, and Taiwan.

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Apple Music

Apple Music has added Student Membership support for 79 new locations, including Israel, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, and Taiwan. With three more markets being added on February 26, the new additions will reach 82 in total.

Student Membership in Apple Music offers access to the music streaming service at a discounted price (depending on geography), provided you’re a UNiDAYS verified student. The pricing for verified students remains for a period of 48 months.

Apple Music reportedly has around 36 million paying users as of now, with a growth rate of around 5 percent per month. If the service continues to grow at this pace, then it will soon overtake Spotify’s user base, becoming the largest paid music streaming service in the United States. Student Membership should be able to aid Apple Music’s growth.

/ Rene Ritchie (Twitter)

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Apple confirms iBoot source code leak, says its security doesn’t depend on secrecy

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iPhone iOS 9

Apple has confirmed the authenticity of the recent iBoot source code leak. The source code is for iOS 9’s iBoot system, which is responsible for trusted boot operation of iPhone’s operating system.

Apple assured that users need not worry about this, as the source code is concerned with iOS 9, a three-year-old operating system that’s been replaced by iOS 11 and is running on a small number of iOS devices. According to App Store stats from Apple Developer portal, a majority of iOS devices are running on iOS 11 (65%), followed by iOS 10 (28%) and earlier versions (7%) which also include iOS 9.

In a statement issued to MacRumors, Apple writes:

“Old source code from three years ago appears to have been leaked, but by design the security of our products doesn’t depend on the secrecy of our source code. There are many layers of hardware and software protections built into our products, and we always encourage customers to update to the newest software releases to benefit from the latest protections.”

Apple also sent a DMCA takedown notice to GitHub to get the code removed successfully. Additionally, Apple notes that the security of iOS devices doesn’t depend on the secrecy of code; instead, it has many layers of hardware and software protections in place.

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