The Wall Street Journal reports that the Apple HomePod, giving the serial mediocre Amazon Alexa a new challenge. Here are the takeaways.  

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The HomePod can be ordered online for $299 starting Wednesday and will be available beginning February 3. 

The new version of the HomePod adds room-sensing technology that recognizes sound reflections from surfaces nearby. That helps the speaker determine whether it is close to a wall or is in an open room, which allows it to adapt the sound to fit its surroundings. 

The HomePod is also equipped with new sensors, allowing it to listen for smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms and send notifications to an iPhone. It can sense temperatures and close blinds when a certain temperature is reached in a room.

The upgraded HomePod also supports a tech standard called Matter. It allows smart-home gadgets like energy-saving thermostats and app-controlled lights to be compatible with devices made by Apple, Inc., and other companies that have signed on to the standard. 

Amazon’s Echo controlled 67% of the smart speaker market in the U.S. at the end of last year, followed by Google Home, which comprised about 27% of the market, according to estimates from research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Apple’s HomePod made up about 6% of the market.