Apple looks to be planning to try and give the likes of Google's Home and Amazon's Echo smart speakers a run for their respective money. The company is set to release a cheaper and smaller-sized version of its HomePod smart speaker, according to a new report, a move that could help it attract a broader market.
The report out of Bloomberg on Monday claims Apple's new smart speaker will be around half the size of the existing HomePod — which measures 6.8 inches high by 5.8 inches wide — while retaining a similar design. The original HomePod launched in February 2018 at a price of $349, but Apple has since reduced the price by $50. The smaller version of the HomePod is set to retail for an even lower price point. The new model is expected to launch in the second half of 2020, after facing a number of delays.
Apple only offers one option — It could be the boost the HomePod needs to compete with the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The Echo retails for $99 and the Home for $99, undercutting the HomePod by sacrificing sound quality. The two ecosystems also offer entry-level products like the $49 Amazon Echo Dot and $49 Google Nest Mini, price points that push the speakers into impulse-buy territory.
The smaller versions are also often bundled with other devices. That means they're more likely to wind up in the homes of those who aren't sure they need or want a smart speaker and can then encourage them to buy a higher-end offering in the same ecosystem down the line. Amazon and Google also offer high-end speakers like the $199 Echo Studio and $299 Home Max that better compete with the HomePod.
Smaller speakers have their place — While the HomePod offers excellent sound quality, the absence of an entry-level product makes it harder to fit a whole house with Apple smart speakers. Amazon and Google's lower-priced offerings are ideal for placing in kitchens and elsewhere where sound quality is less important.
Beyond the appeal of being able to play music in multiple rooms at once, placing smart speakers around the home also makes it easier to interact with smart home systems, another area where Apple has slipped behind. Its HomeKit platform is supported by fewer products than the Amazon and Google's platforms, meaning smart bulbs and the like are less likely to be supported by the Siri virtual assistant on Apple devices versus Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Beyond a cheaper product, there are signs Apple is looking to make its platform more competitive via added compatibility. A February report claimed the company was exploring the ability for third-party music services like Spotify to stream directly on the HomePod. These services currently require another Apple device to AirPlay music from the relevant app. Moreover, the HomePod does not currently support streaming audio over Bluetooth.
Apple will need to do something to turn things around. Statista shows Siri accounted for just six percent of the global smart speaker market last year, versus 31 percent each for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Changing that might mean relaxing restrictions on which services Apple supports.