What it is: Apple announced HomePod, their smart speaker coming in December.
Amazon started the virtual assistant market with Echo then Google followed up with Google Home. The big problem with these early virtual assistants is that they focused more on natural language processing and less on audio quality. On the other hand, wireless speakers offered superior audio quality but no natural language processing capability whatsoever. To fill this gap, Apple introduced HomePod for $349, which will start shipping in December.
The main idea behind HomePod is to be an intelligent home assistant. Not only will it focus on music more than its rivals from Amazon and Google, but it will also focus on controlling a smart home as well. HomePod costs more than the cheapest Amazon Echo or Google Home, but those products also offer less as well. Whether Apple can sell more HomePods at a high price remains to be seen, but the added value is clearly there. Whether people want to pay for that added value is the big question.
The key advantage of HomePod is its link to HomeKit devices. Unfortunately, HomeKit isn’t as widespread or common as Apple would like. That means HomeKit compatibility is a nice feature, but not a compelling one to most people. Siri integration is fine, but nothing Amazon and Google don’t offer already. Linking HomePod to Apple Music is also nice, but Apple Music is a subscription service and not everyone relies on it.
So HomePod’s two key features (HomeKit and Apple Music) distinguish it from Amazon and Google, but don’t necessarily make it a must-have feature. The huge difference will likely be in the audio quality.
Right now, Amazon and Google offer mediocre audio quality. HomePod will clearly blow these rivals away. The best way Apple could demonstrate this would be to let people hear the difference in audio quality from all three devices. For people who value superior audio quality, HomePod will win. For people who care more about a low price, Amazon and Google will win.
HomePod is a nice new product, but not a revolutionary one. As HomeKit devices become more common and useful, then HomePod will also become more common and useful. HomePod won’t be the overnight success product that everyone wants Apple to introduce, but it’s a start and that might be enough.