The Apple HomePod priced at $349 hasn’t been a smashing hit. Though the gadget has won praises for its sound quality, potential buyers are more inclined toward rival devices from Amazon and Google. Seeing this trend, Apple reportedly has decided to lower the HomePod price by coming up with a new cheaper version.
According to a report from Apple’s supply chain (via Chinese site Sina), the cheaper HomePod would cost about $199 and carry the Beats branding. Further, the report claims that the iPhone maker is in talks with MediaTek over manufacturing the affordable version. Apple adopting Beats branding for the cheaper version would help separate it from the premium product that the company is currently offering.
Possibly the new speaker would be smaller, have fewer functions and be made up of different materials. Rumors of Apple planning a smaller HomePod are not new. A couple of months back there were reports of a cheaper Siri-powered speaker being in the works, but not much was known back then.
There are chances that the supply chain sources may have gotten confused between the cheaper version of HomePod and the upcoming Beats branded AirPlay 2 speaker. Apple, previously, has talked about the AirPlay 2, which would be wireless speakers.
Many believe that the smaller HomePod would be launched before the year’s end. So, there are chances that we may get some details of it at the WWDC 2018 in June, followed by a September launch alongside the new iPhone.
The latest report on the smaller HomePod arrives just weeks after a Bloomberg report claimed that they slashed the sales estimates and lowered the orders with the suppliers. Further, the report also claimed that some Apple Stores are selling “fewer than 10 HomePods a day.”
Prior to their launch, Apple HomePod was seen as a massive hit. Pre-orders for the product were robust. Also, the gadget accounted for about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales in the last week of January, according to Bloomberg data. However, sales started to drop after the product arrived in the stores.
“Even when people had the ability to hear these things,” Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar said, “it still didn’t give Apple another spike.”
In the first ten weeks of its sales, Apple’s smart speaker grabbed 10% of the market, compared to 73% for Echo and 14% for the Google Home. While a few weeks after the launch, the sales slipped to 4% of the category on average, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence.
Citing sources, Bloomberg previously reported that Apple never saw the HomePod as more than an accessory, similar to the AirPods earphones. When Echo was launched, Apple was working on the early version of the smart speaker, and saw it as a high-quality speaker rather than a voice-controlled digital assistant for the home.
Nevertheless, the smart speaker is a growing segment, and thus, Apple’s decision to lower the HomePod price must not come as a surprise. Apple with a smaller HomePod will surely want to grab the bigger slice of the market, something that its current generation HomePod may not be able to achieve. According to Strategy Analytics, Apple’s smart speaker accounted for just 6% of the global smart speaker market in the March quarter. In comparison, Amazon’s Echo devices grabbed 81.8% share.
Slow sales for the HomePod can be attributed to two factors. The first is surely the price as Google Home is available for as little as $130. The second reason is Siri’s intelligence. Apple’s Siri is not as skilled as assistants from Amazon and Google. Also, Siri’s functionality on the HomePod is limited even when compared to Siri on the iPhone. AirPlay 2.0, which could have given Apple’s speaker more features, is still absent.
So, by keeping the HomePod price at or below the $200 pricetag, Apple wants to address one shortcoming at least. However, experts believe that even a HomePod price of $200, may fail to get buyers excited unless Apple addresses the bigger concern about the HomePod capabilities. Potential buyers believed that Apple’s smart speaker would be able to do the same (and even more) things than the Echo and Google Home, like answering questions, orderings pizzas and more. Instead, it was limited to just playing tunes from Apple Music, controlling a few smart home appliances and sending messages via iPhone.