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AirPods and HomePod updates bring Apple closer to its audio ambitions

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Even with Apple's inevitable shift to a more service-based model, there is still much to discover for the company. When it comes to the latest market launches, the screens give way to the sounds. The company launched wireless earphones and smart speakers after these categories had grown for years. Recent reports indicate that the company is looking for its game and preparing for the release of high-end products including new headphones.

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Surely AirPods could easily be considered as another "True Wireless" set of earphones, the successors to the white earphones that Apple bundled with the first iPod. Similarly, the HomePod can be downplayed as a swipe on a competitor without fear of wiping back. However, one has the impression that audio based on recent developments plays a role closer to the core of the Apple experience than ever before:

Reducing barriers to ecosystem interaction

From the friendliness of the Mac to the ubiquity of the MacBook iPhone, Apple has long been working to reduce the interaction barriers for computing. The Apple Watch represents the lower bound in terms of what can be meaningfully conveyed with today's display technologies.

But of course, there are many cases where interacting with a display is neither desirable nor safe, despite Apple's CarPlay. An audio interface is crucial to a more complete and (sometimes) natural way of interacting, especially as Apple plays the long game with Siri.

Screen Fatigue

This year's developer conferences were notable because they saw Google and Apple respond to growing concerns about smartphone addiction. The upcoming versions of their smartphone operating systems will provide users with new tools to perform such tasks as tracking their own app usage, locking them for a period of time from their own devices, and setting the phones in a downdraft mode that will help them fall asleep (an extension of the Blue light filter trends of 2016)

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But even in these "downtime" consumers want to have a way to do tasks that require no visual focus, tasks that Apple can use build one Building a bridge between his current app ecosystem leadership and everything that could come next.

A Siri Revival

Speaking of Siri, Apple gave the pioneering voice agent its biggest hit in its disembodied arm, ever at its World Wide Developer Conference in June. After an extended outcry over the limits of interoperability, Apple opened the doors to developers and users to expand Siri's capabilities.

The results could be transformative, combining Siri's massive usage scale with iOS's app breadth. Along the way, it would not only enhance Siris' usefulness on the iPhone and Mac, but also the potential to enrich AirPods and the HomePod.

Last year I wrote about how the voice made it possible for Amazon to enter the race for the consumer platform after the failure of smartphones and exclusion in the weakening tablet market. This point was also recently made by ZDNet columnist Brent Leary, who sees Amazon pushing ahead with a voice-first transformation.

Apple is not at this point yet. After all, Siri was an anomaly because it was an important introduction to the user interface that was not accompanied by a companion device, as is customary with Apple, such as mouse, click wheel, and multitouch. The AirPods could be an extension of the path of Bragi Dash Pro smart earphones to the Apple Watch, as well as the HomePod. Until Siri is ready for these demands, Apple can continue to sow the market.

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