There is no doubt that smart speakers are still a major Internet enterprises and smart device brands to invest heavily in the category. From google Home and Amazon Echo overseas, to the domestic market by Tmall Elf, little love speaker, small smart speaker “three worlds”, glue competition is still escalating step by step.
Apple, which dominates the consumer electronics market, seems to have been slow to respond when it entered the smart speaker market: the homePod, which has been a hit, has not only delayed its launch for six months until 2018, but has also been slow to follow up, becoming the only source of Apple’s smart speaker line. You know, other manufacturers have long formed group warfare covering different price segments.
The war is expected to change in the fall of 2020, with Apple filling up its smart speakers with a new product that sells and experiences both online.
The HomePod Mini will be called next week.
News of the mini HomePod has been streaming since the spring, with the headset AirPods Studio, though it didn’t come to light as much as the latter, until recently, when sources such as Jon Prosser said the HomePod Mini would appear with the iPhone 12 at Apple’s October launch.
Apple products with mini suffixes have always been much smaller than their peers, so how mini is the HomePod Mini? Kang, the microblogging blogger, says the product is 3.3 inches (8.38 cm) tall, the height equivalent to the palm of your hand, and fits well.
Another detail was mentioned in the news that the HomePod Mini will use the Apple S5 processor instead of the Apple A8 processor on the HomePod, which is the same as the iPhone 6. The Apple S5, previously used in the Apple Watch Series 5, is a 64-bit dual-core processor that developers say can run smoothly on watchOS apps.
The processor “downgrade” could mean that the HomePod Mini’s energy-efficient head is no longer a chip, but a speaker for sound performance. Limited by volume, its speaker size and power are difficult to match with the HomePod, and according tomedia reports, the number of speakers will be streamlined, no longer a luxurious 7-unit 360-degree speaker combination.
The other good news is that the HomePod Mini is ready to go on sale on November 16th when it launches on October 15th, and it will sell for an absolutely personal price: just $99 (about 666 yuan). Visual designs like Sonic and Siri on the launch invitation also correspond to the HomePod Mini.
The low price and portable body are believed to be not only an entry-level HomePod with a change in size, but also the first HomePod for many people.
The HomePod has been eye-watering, bringing Apple’s industrial design capabilities to home smart speakers and turning the already familiar Siri on the iPhone into a voice assistant for the whole family with more precise voice-receiving and LED-screened light interactions. The audio performance as a speaker is even more breakthrough, the smaller body has both high and low frequency and all-way sound, but also for the spatial position dynamic adjustment.
Combined with a variety of hardware and audio innovations, the HomePod has not sold out as soon as other Apple products have been on the market, and has not disclosed market performance in more than two years, let alone become Apple’s new growth engine like the AirPods. HomePod, which has been polished for half a year since its launch, lacks widespread market recognition.
At present, the second-hand, quasi-new machine HomePod is mostly about 1500 yuan price, combined with network discussion and e-commerce page user evaluation, we can draw a preliminary conclusion: HomePod’s excellence is accepted by the outside world, but can not hold up its official price of 2299 yuan. Slightly embarrassingly, the HomePod has been adjusted from its initial price of $2,799, but sales have not improved much.
The HomePod Mini, which costs less than a third of the original, is clearly the largest “short board” visible to the naked eye, and retains the advantages that are hard to see on other smart speakers such as appearance and interaction. But three years after homePod’s launch, low prices are only the first step in Apple’s attempt to expand its market share in smart speakers, and there are plenty of lessons to be done.
The smart speaker market needs introductory products.
By the end of 2019, Amazon and Google were in the top two places in the global smart speaker market, while Alibaba, Xiaomi and Baidu were in the top five with more than 10 per cent each, according to research groups such as Canalys. Many times apples are classified as Others, accounting for less than 5% of the total, and the HomePod doesn’t “eat all over the world.”
Although the core business is not very similar, Amazon and Google’s smart speaker products have many similarities: built-in and evolving smart voice assistants, access to a fairly rich ecosystem of smart devices, not just one product, but covering different price segments and different usage scenarios.
With the exception of flagship smart speakers such as echo Studio and Google Home Max, which are similar to the HomePod price segment, Amazon and Google both have smart speakers that are priced at $99 and even entry-level products that cost $49 (about $328), with feature differences mainly in sound quality rather than intelligence.
Competitors are not only cheaper than the HomePod, but also “smarter” than it is. The two companies, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, already have fairly sophisticated semantic understanding, multiple rounds of conversation and more capabilities than Siri, which is still at the executive level at this stage, and it’s hard for even Apple eco-users to turn it down.
China’s domestic smart speakers are the low threshold advantage to play to the extreme, not only entry-level products within the minimum of 100 yuan, with the screen version is also mostly within 600 yuan equivalent to less than 100 dollars. Low prices, combined with graphical interactions, education, video and more, make it hard for even the HomePod Mini to fight head-on.
Voice assistant performance gap in the language gap is even greater, three products representing Alibaba, Xiaomi, Baidu artificial intelligence technology, in Chinese as a mother tongue under the addition of a better interactive experience, covering response speed, database, not to mention custom tone and other rich “entertainment” content.
These manufacturers in the sale of smart speakers, but also at a very low price to attract consumers to buy packages, although only one more can be controlled by voice light bulbs, switches, but can let people very clearly experience the smart smart smart refers to the efficiency of the smart home, promote the popularity of smart speakers as a smart home entrance attributes.
As you can see, products within $100 have become mainstream in the smart speaker market, and low prices are the first step in attracting users to buy and translate into continuous use. As a result, Apple needs to roll back entry-level products, and $99 is already in the mid-range category, but that’s a big change from the $349 the HomePod was when it first went on sale.
Competition for audio quality is probably the last thing the HomePod Mini needs to worry about, expectations have been reduced in size ahead of schedule, and the mid- to low-end smart speaker market is not the most focused on audio. Smart voice assistants are far more important than that, and Siri needs an “epic boost” to compete head-on with a group of Internet companies that also reach hundreds of millions of users.
HomePod Mini’s computational audio capabilities are still to be expected, as hardware dependencies may not be significant. Nearly a year after the AirPods Pro went on sale, and with updates such as spatial audio that dramatically enhance the listening experience, computing audio will be the biggest difference between Apple audio devices such as homePods, in addition to industrial design and interaction.
How far is the HomePod 2?
Apple has taken note of the mid- to low-end smart speaker market, and bringing homePod Minis that have upended the past in price, does that mean that the flagship HomePod is about to be replaced? We haven’t found any information so far, and the information from various sources suggests that no HomePod 2 or any other iterative product will be available in the last year.
The first homePod has been on the market for nearly three years but has not changed, which may mean that Apple’s attitude to this smart speaker product line may be similar to that of Apple TV: the hardware level maintains a low frequency of replacement, the software is maintained a big change in the annual law, wait until the market environment and content ecology changes and then launch the corresponding new products (such as 4K video, low-end smart speakers).
In fact, homePod is also close to the “unalmed” state, industrial design, sound quality performance and hardware itself are closely related to the parts have been highly affirmed, smart assistant, the price of these “soft” parts are the main reason the market is not too much to buy, Apple can be dynamic adjustment. Probably for the next two or three years, the HomePod and HomePod Mini will be maintained.
Screen-casting function may be homePod in the future in the software level to bring updates, there are already Baidu, Google in the product to add to the TELEVISION content screen to expand the smart speaker boundaries of the case, there is no technical difficulty. Apple is also aggressively promoting its own streaming service, Apple TV Plus, without passing on any chance of appearing in the living room, even with Xbox consoles, not to mention smart speakers.
In addition to helping video content promotion, the screen function is also a great help for smart home interaction. With a graphical interface, home scenes and the status of individual devices can be managed more efficiently. Imagine, again, information such as temperature and humidity, sweeping past quickly with your eyes is sure to be much faster than waiting for smart speakers to read out one by one.
The direction of change mentioned above is not nonsense, according tomedia excavations, homePod firmware has been switched from the original iOS-based to tvOS-based development, which means that while storage space and system resource consumption have been streamlined, HomePod is likely to take advantage of TV-related features included with tvOS, such as voice control optimization for smart homes.
Apple has led the way in reshaping the smartphone industry, but it has also had to admit that the smartphone market has reached its limits and needs to open up new frontiers. Smart speakers that cover both audio and smart homes are a good choice, as evidenced by the popularity of sound on the one hand, and almost all smartphone makers are making smart homes on the other.
The smart speaker landscape may seem set, but the audio and smart home behind it is still a blue sea, and Apple, with its low-cost HomePod Mini, is likely to have more than just an industry head product. Literally, Apple’s “family bucket” or the beginning of this, the iPhone finally don’t have to be the sole protagonist.