Apple’s first smart speaker, the HomePod, launched earlier this year with a price tag of $349. That wasn’t necessarily cheap, but it’s also not the most expensive option out there, either — especially for the quality of sound it produces.
But while it might not even be as expensive as Google’s own giant smart speaker, the Google Home Max, it’s still priced high enough that it might not be at the top of the list for someone looking to get their hands on a smart speaker. And while I’ll go to bat for the HomePod in itself, even if it’s still lacking in the digital personal assistant area, the device is inherently limited by the fact it’s tied directly to only Apple Music and no other streaming platforms for easy voice controls.
So it might be more palpable for someone who wants a smart speaker to go with another option, like Amazon’s Echo lineup.
The streaming music option you use may carry a lot of weight here when choosing a speaker, which is honestly pretty unfortunate. Apple’s primary focus of building out its own ecosystem can sometimes be a detriment, and this is one of those times. Yes, you can stream Spotify to the HomePod, but there are drawbacks, including the fact you can’t just ask Siri to play something from the platform.
But, going back to the price, those drawbacks might be overlooked by someone who doesn’t have to spend as much money upfront. That’s why those rumors of a less expensive HomePod were so enticing. It’s been awhile, actually, since we’ve heard anything on this front, and some rumors had suggested the device would be available to buy before the end of 2018 — maybe in time for the holiday shopping season.
That’s obviously not going to happen. Or is it?
A less expensive HomePod would be something I actually wouldn’t recommend, unless you are wholly invested, without any second thoughts, in Apple’s ecosystem. I don’t actually think it would be a good smart speaker just because it doesn’t cost as much as the bigger option, because that drop in price would also mean a drop in performance. At that point you’d just have a smart speaker that doesn’t sound great and also has mediocre assistant features. That’s not great!
But maybe instead of taking time and resources to build a less-capable smart speaker, Apple can just expand Apple Music’s availability. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing, with news breaking today that Apple Music is going to be available on the Amazon Echo lineup, as part of a new Skill, in mid-December. Just in time for the holidays. And considering how many Amazon Echo devices there are out there, it’s hard to imagine that some folks out there aren’t using Apple Music, too.
I have my issues with Apple Music, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great service in its own right. So adding support to Amazon Alexa means it also becomes a worthwhile option for folks who have been meaning to give it a try. Six months for Verizon Unlimited customers is a nice deal, for instance. More than anything, though, I think Apple may have figured out the perfect way to go around the “less expensive HomePod” and just get Apple Music on more devices, ones that cost quite a bit less already.
Does this mean that Apple isn’t building a less expensive HomePod? Not at all. But this could very well give the company a lot more time to build one, if they are indeed working on it. Just imagine if Apple expanded Apple Music to the Google Home lineup of smart speakers!
Apple Music is the perfect service for Apple to expand, too. It’s already available on Android, and it should be platform agnostic. Because it’s just a service for Apple. The more devices and platforms it’s available on the better. If it also means Apple doesn’t have to spend the resources to make a less expensive HomePod? That seems like a nice win for the company. It feels like it should have happened already, right?