While Amazon and Google have seen success with their smart home speakers, the usually popular Apple brand is struggling to connect with the market. In fact, their HomePod is, by most accounts, a dud.
HomePod had some glaring issues that even the least-savvy shopper would recognize and sigh at, including its extreme price and its extreme late market arrival.
The price, though. While both Amazon and Google have smart home speaker devices starting at approximately $50 and a line that offers options for consumers, Apple has only one version of its HomePod, and it costs $349. The only other competitor products that even comes close to that cost is the Google Home Max, which includes a smart home hub. The Amazon Show, which includes a screen and can display video and supports video calling, only costs $230. The HomePod has no screen or video capabilities. Sure, Apple fan-people know that the products are usually pricey and typically don’t care – because it’s all about that logo – even hardcore fans think that the HomePod has gone too far. Smart home devices are gaining popularity, but it is still a fringe market. Asking customers to invest $349 into a new and rapidly evolving product category that many still don’t understand is just a simply missing the mark. Honestly, Apple was relying on its superior sound quality – which to be fair is accurate – but again, this is a missed mark. Right now, consumers care more about the functionality (AKA the bells and whistles) of these devices, since they are still intrigued more by the ‘smart’ capabilities and less by the audio quality. They are impressed by the AI’s ability to answer their inquires; not how the AI sounds when doing so.
The other issue is that early adapters – whether Apple fan-people or not – had no choice but to go with a competitor since Apple just took so damn long to get its device to market. We’re talking years, here, not months. And they delayed the release! First thought to be arriving before the 2017 holiday season, HomePod didn’t arrive until early 2018, successfully crushing the gift lists of many.
The HomePod also suffered from capability issues. While the Amazon and Google devices have tons of partners and integrations, Apple kept their HomePod too close to home. The device lacked features, had a limited assistant, and needed too much support from the iPhone.
One of the surprising features that was missing from the HomePod was AirPlay, which seems like a no-brainer for any Apple product. The company has finally released a software update which allows AirPlay, thought it might be too little, too late. For those that already own a HomePod, they will now be able to play their media in multiple rooms, simultaneously, and also now supports stereo mode. This update is important because the HomePod is so limited that using AirPlay is the only way for people to use apps like Pandora, Spotify, and Amazon Music.