A questionable new report from Apple's supply chain claims that the company's rumored "low-priced" version of the HomePod will be placed under the Beats by Dre brand instead of the expected Apple branding. The report comes from Chinese news site Sina, which also says the $199 speaker will have MediaTek as the supplier, a change from Apple's decision to give Inventec sole supplier duties on the first HomePod (via LoveiOS).
Reports about a cheaper HomePod began appearing quickly after news of lackluster sales for the first version of the speaker emerged earlier this year, with former KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and other industry watchers predicting a low-cost speaker priced between $150 and $200. What's new in this week's report is the idea of a Beats-branded version of the HomePod, but it's unclear exactly what form the speaker would take, what features it would carry over from the $350 version of the speaker, and where Sina is sourcing the news from in the first place.
It seems unlikely that Apple would somehow combine the HomePod and Beats brands into one product, and due to all of this it's important to take the new report with a dose of skepticism. Beats last updated its Pill line of speakers with the Pill+ in 2015, which ran for $230 at launch but nowadays is priced closer to $130 when purchased on sale. Pill devices lack persistent "Hey Siri" functionality, likely due to their lack of constant AC power, so it also seems unlikely that Apple would extend that feature beyond its own line of devices, currently including the iPhone, iPad, HomePod, and Apple Watch.
In his prediction, Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod in an effort to boost short-term shipments. Apple's main selling point on the $350 HomePod is its high-quality audio playback, with reviewers agreeing that the speaker blows other smart speakers out of the water in terms of audio performance, but Siri's performance, the lack of certain languages, and Apple's walled garden ecosystem (particularly excluding any music service besides Apple Music) left many to wonder if the price was actually justified.
As a point of comparison, two of Apple's rivals sell entry-level versions of their smart speakers for as low as $50 in the United States, including Amazon's Echo Dot ($49.99) and Alphabet's Google Home Mini ($49.00). The smaller, cheaper devices allow users to expand features of the connected speaker system into other rooms around their home, without having to spend a lot of money on purchasing the base speakers multiple times.
For now, the HomePod still lacks a few features Apple announced prior to the speaker's launch, namely AirPlay 2 support and multi-room audio, both pegged for release through a firmware update sometime later in 2018. Although there have been many reports about a cheaper HomePod, none have yet hinted at a potential launch window for the rumored lower-cost speaker.
Top Rated Comments
Other than better audio quality, a $50 dot is more useful in every way imaginable. And a $100 pair of amplified stereo speakers plugged into the dot can easily match the audio quality of a HP.
Apple needs to learn that there is more to competition than brand and price tiers. In these IoT segments, people will cross-shop vastly different price ranges and types of products.
And make Siri be the same on all devices, as a start.
I think HomePod would have done much better if they’d waited another year and built something truly great. They harp on audio quality as if that alone is supposed to convince people to buy. News flash. There are plenty of great sounding speakers out there. If you care about audio quality, you already have good ones. I laugh at the Apple fans who ooooo and ahhhhh over the HomePod quality and how they’ve been waiting for a great sounding speaker. What rock do they live under?
HomePod is a flop because of the software, not the hardware. Apple rakes in billions every quarter yet can’t ship anything on time these days. By releasing HomePod feature incomplete, they only highlighted the advantages of competing platforms. After returning my HomePod, I bought an Echo Dot to control my Sonos. I’d never tried voice control, but liked the way Siri worked on HomePod.
[doublepost=1526921858][/doublepost] This is one of the product’s many shortcomings. I have thousands of CDs on my home music server in lossless format. Why should I waste bandwidth and listen to lower quality audio via streaming when I have high quality files available on my local network? If you don’t have Apple Music, I can understand that getting Siri to work with a local library might be more complex (from Apple’s perspective), but it’s absurd that they didn’t offer this feature to Apple Music subscribers. They know what’s in your library. They know which files reside on your local machine. Why not always favor the highest quality audio file available? There are so many obvious software/feature fails with HomePod. It’s such a disappointing product from that standpoint.
I find the HomePod too restrictive for both of the primary functions... as a speaker for playing music or as a smart assistant. Whether it is the HomePod or Apple TV, they don't offer the flexibility that their competitors do... and at significantly lower prices. A "dumb" HomePod that operates as simply a bluetooth speaker (with aux input) at an appropriate price would be appealing to me.