Apple introduced the “HomePod,” the poorly named smart Siri speaker. It’s Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but the big difference between those devices is the audio quality. The 7-inch tall speaker is powered by the A8 chipset which allows Siri to run an advanced task on the speaker instead of relying on the cloud. There’s a 4-inch woofer and seven beam-tweeter – a fancy way of saying the HomePod is going to sound magnificent. I’d compare the HomePod to the Sonos Play1 or even some higher-end Bose speakers. Apple reliance on higher speaker quality leaves me to wonder if they’re doing it because they know Siri cannot compete head-to-head with Alexa or Google Assistant.
Siri will activate when you say “Hey Siri,” and you can ask her to turn lights off or on, play music, or ask other commands. There are six microphones to help the speaker hear you, but it’ll be interesting to see if Siri can work better on the speaker than it does on the phone.
Apple’s focus on quality and beauty is a stark difference from their competitors. Amazon and Google are both focusing on affordability and becoming the control for the smart home. Apple’s intelligent speaker is a teeth grinding $349. The Sonos Play1 is only $199, Google Home is $109, and the original Echo is $179. Why buy the Apple alternative when there are more affordable and already available smart speakers?
Apple’s HomePod reminds me of the iPod
The iPod was Apple’s first flagship consumer device to disrupt the market. It changed the way we listened to music and popularized the digital music experience. The iPod let you carry around thousands of songs in your pocket. Before you needed to lug around heavy gadgets that limited you to a CD or tape which was a pain in the neck, but the iPod changed that. What the iPod did was create a new market for consumers. They knew they wanted an MP3 player because Apple made it. Dozens of companies copied the iPod, with some success, but the iPod remained the top in its class. The HomePod is going to do the same for these smart speakers.
The Amazon Echo and Google Home will ride the wave of Apple’s announcement to sell more speakers. Amazon is already selling thousands of them, but they haven’t sold a significant amount to make a difference in Amazon’s bottom line. The Google Home likely has sold less and will never become a hit like the Chromecast or Chromebooks. Still, Apple’s announcement will reach fanboys, ordinary consumers, and smart speaker holdouts. They’ll see this space is necessary and could become the next big thing, or flop like the tablet market has. Either way, more consumers are going to take a look at the Echo and Google Home to see if they should buy them over Apple’s offering.
The other big piece of this is the HomePod isn’t coming out until December, possibly after a lot of holiday shopping has already been done. If the speaker isn’t out before Black Friday, shoppers will likely opt for the Echo or Home which will leave Apple in the dust.
Once you have a speaker, you’re not going to buy outside the ecosystem because you’ve trained yourself to say the keyword and you’ve bought all your hardware that you’ll want, plus that smart home device likely won’t work with HomeKit.
Apple is validating the market. They’re giving Amazon and Google the steam they need to make intelligent speakers popular. Apple will still sell millions of these speakers in the end, but they won’t see success as they’ve had with smart watches. Apple won’t kill Amazon or Google like they managed to kill Fitbit and Pebble.
Let me know your thoughts! Do you think Apple’s HomePod speaker will disrupt the market or merely push more consumer awareness of the Echo and Home?