The next chapter in the smart speaker wars is coming soon, and is now available for pre order.
Apple is finally releasing its much buzzed-about, frustratingly-delayed smart speaker, the HomePod, which will be a direct competitor to the popular Google Home and the market-dominating Amazon Echo.
The HomePod will be released on February 9, 2018…and will cost approximately $350. That’s more than double the price of the highest-priced digital speakers from both Amazon and Google. Both of those brands also have starter smart home speakers for under $50. I want to say that that is a bold move, but it’s Apple; people generally accept that brand as a higher-end brand.
While people are excited, there will be some challenges that Apple has to face. For starters, consumers are generally more accepting of smart phone than they are of putting digital speakers in their homes. A $1,000 iPhone is easier to sell than a $350 digital smart home speaker.
With that already shaky (though growing) market, Apple is also a few years late to the game, and, as many have observed, pretty overpriced. Its competitors are also ahead in the game in that they offer a variety of sizes and colors for their speakers. Apple will only have the one model available at launch, and will offer their device in two colors: space gray and white. Of course, Apple justifies their price point by focusing on the features of the speaker, including its audio quality.
Another concern for Apple is that they completely missed the holiday season, as well as this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). These two big events definitely could have been great launching pads for promoting this new product. We were originally expecting the Apple HomePod to be released in time for the holiday season; I’m sure that many disappointed shoppers decided they didn’t want to wait, and opted to take advantage of the deals that were available for the Amazon and Google products. There are definitely some hardcore Apple fans that were either fine with waiting, or that are going to buy the new device even if they already have a smart speaker from another brand.
Another problem that has social media commenters in a frenzy is that they are using a closed network. This means that if you want to play music, you better have a large and organized Apple Music library, because you won’t have access to Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc. While its competitors are working in a more open network that allows for lots of innovation and expansion, Apple is keeping their speaker close to home.
While Apple might have made the right choice by delaying their HomePod so that the product was ready for market, their late-to-the-game efforts might go even deeper – specifically referring to their smart home assistant, Siri. While Amazon and Google have been working on continually advancing their AI systems, people are still less than impressed with what Siri has to offer.
If you’re not sold yet, or not willing to pay the high price, keep an eye on tech companies, which are likely to be doing giveaways.