The Apple HomePod will be available in December for $349. The high-end competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home will initially ship in the US, UK and Australia. Apple CEO Tim Cook indicated that other languages and countries will be supported in 2018. The pricing comes in at double the cost of Amazon’s flagship Echo smart speaker and seven times higher than the entry-level Echo Dot. It is almost three times more costly than Google Home.
A Big Focus on Audio Quality
Apple executive Phil Schiller focused on the audio quality of the new smart speaker that will also handle voice assistant tasks through Siri. Mr. Schiller’s focus on music started with this comment:
Just like iPod reinvented much in our pockets. Home pod is going to reinvent music in our home.
Siri was mentioned as an afterthought in the presentation that talked mostly about music and sound quality. The addition of a “Musicologist” feature promises deep integration with Apple Music and personalization, but the details were slim.
A Focus on Sound Quality With No Mention of Beats
Apple has a history in music and its Beats acquisition put it into the sound quality game, but there was no mention at all of Beats. The component parts of HomePod sound impressive and it is designed to work on its own or in concert with other HomePod’s in the same room.
This all looks interesting. The voice recognition technology sounds good, but it is not clear that it will be better than what Amazon and Google already have on the market. Apple has increasingly focused on hardware plays and maximizing revenue per product. HomePod looks to fit in that category. Without a smarter and more capable Siri, it will really have to succeed on the merits of its audio quality and seamless integration with other Apple products.