Apple’s first smart speaker, the HomePod, was first announced late last year, and Apple went out of its way to make sure that potential customers knew what they were getting: A speaker that also has Siri in it. Apple’s focus on the marketing, even after the device’s launch, has been about sound and not so much about anything else. Yes, Siri does get used in at least one ad, but even in that case the HomePod’s sound quality is supposed to be the star of the show.
Apple priced the device, with its hardware leading the way in pricing categories, as low as it probably could, all things considered. This is a device that’s not meant to compete against the Google Home or the Amazon Echo — it’s more than that, because those devices don’t put sound quality above everything else. The HomePod is meant to go up against other high-end speakers, including the Google Home Max — which actually costs $50 more.
Wrap all of that up, including reviews that praised the sound quality and took away a lot of points for its Siri functionality, and you get reports that the HomePod isn’t selling that well.
Which, perhaps inevitably, leads to rumors that Apple is going to change things up a bit in the future and probably launch another smart speaker that doesn’t cost as much as the HomePod. To be clear, we’d probably be getting those rumors even if the HomePod was selling ridiculously well. Apple needs more than one smart speaker on the market, priced at different levels. The HomePod isn’t the one smart speaker to rule them all. Not even in Apple’s ecosystem.
So the company should have more options and they all shouldn’t cost $349. So a less expensive model makes sense. Will it have some sacrifices compared to the HomePod? Of course. But we know that’s not going to be in the Siri department. It’s going to be in the sound quality, but Apple’s aim should still be making the cheaper alternative still sound better than the other options in the price range.
So even if Apple launches a competitor to the Echo or Home, priced around the same, its competing product needs to sound better. Because we already know Siri can barely compete on its own.
That train of thought got me wondering: Would you fork over the money for a less expensive HomePod if Apple put it on the market? I know that $349 price tag might be a bit daunting, especially with Siri lagging behind the competition (I still can’t believe you can’t ask Siri on the HomePod to tell you your schedule), so would a lower cost up front help you adopt the Apple-branded smart speaker into your home? And, if so, would Siri’s shortcomings matter as much to you in that case?