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Home>UPDATE: Apple's HomePod costs 3 times as much as Amazon's Echo, but is it 3 times as smart?

UPDATE: Apple's HomePod costs 3 times as much as Amazon's Echo, but is it 3 times as smart?

UPDATE: Apple's HomePod costs 3 times as much as Amazon's Echo, but is it 3 times as smart?


By Kari Paul, MarketWatch

Some devices appear to be funnier and more intelligent than others

Amazon on Wednesday launched several new Echo devices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amazon-launches-new-echo-and-fire-tv-devices-2017-09-27), including a $100 version, $80 cheaper than a previous edition. The Alexa-enabled device is smaller, provides improved sound, and can better pick up the users voice even in noisy situations. A $150 version also has better audio quality, and can turn off lights when the owner says, "Goodnight," the company says.

Apple unveiled its "HomePod" (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apples-unveils-new-homepod-voice-controlled-speaker-competing-with-amazons-echo-2017-06-05) last June, a wireless speaker to compete with the Echo. But the company has some strides to make if it wants to compete with other smart devices that have gotten a head start -- at least in the intelligence department. That's because Siri lags behind Microsoft's (MSFT) Cortana, the Alexa on Amazon Echo (AMZN), and the Google (GOOGL) Home Assistant, a recent study from digital agency Stone Temple that asked 5,000 random questions of the leading smart assistants found.

At $349, the HomePod is significantly more expensive than its competitors: Google Home Assistant (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/google-home-white-slate-fabric/5578849.p?skuId=5578849) retails for $129. Cortana made its debut as part of Windows Phone 8.1 (https://www.theverge.com/2014/4/2/5570866/cortana-windows-phone-8-1-digital-assistant) in 2014 and Siri has been included on Apple (AAPL) devices since 2014. Amazon reportedly sold more than 11 million Echo devices (http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-has-sold-more-than-11-million-echo-devices-morgan-stanley-says/) between mid-2015 and Dec. 1 2016. Google is expected to have sold only 1 million Google Home devices my mid-2017, but is reportedly catching up in the smart assistant realm, with at least 200 million devices having access to Google Assistant (https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/16/google-home-is-catching-up-to-amazons-echo.aspx). The release of the HomePod comes as smart devices are increasingly finding themselves in our homes (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/meet-your-new-office-assistants-alexa-cortana-and-eva-2017-03-20) and even our offices, though some question if the purchases are worthwhile (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/meet-your-new-office-assistants-alexa-cortana-and-eva-2017-03-20).

The smartest device was the Google Home Assistant: it answered 69% of the questions and 91% of those completely and correctly. Cortana followed in second place at 56% of questions answered and 82% of those answered correctly. Siri was able to answer only 22% of 5,000 questions and 62% of them correctly; Alexa answered 21% and 87% of those correctly. Researchers compared these answers to a traditional text-based Google search, which found 97.4% of questions were answered 100% complete and correct, meaning that the question was answered fully and directly.

These devices have the potential to be the next main computing platform, said Adam Wright, senior analyst for Consumer IoT at research firm IDC. "A number of factors will shape the market moving forward, including changes in consumers' comfort over the security and collection of private data, the progress of natural language processing and advances in voice interface functionalities, and regulatory requirements that could alter the market," he said. (The companies surveyed did not respond to request for comment.)

The HomePod will reportedly have louder and more crisp sound than competitors, Bloomberg reported (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-31/apple-said-to-ready-siri-speaker-in-bid-to-rival-google-amazon), and will likely integrate with third-party apps. Though some of these devices have been on the market for years, the study shows some of their processes haven't been perfected, the Stone Temple survey found. When asked, "Who is the highest paid actress," Cortana pulled up a list of highest paid actors instead. Siri, when asked, "How to use crutches," pulled up a rather nonsensical listing of metabolic properties of using crutches.

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