Apple is reacting to the popularity of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker with a Siri-based competitor. The new speaker that is dubbed HomePod, was launched on Monday in San Jose, California at the Worldwide Developers Conference.
Apple is trying to catch-up. Amazon launched the Echo in 2014, and Google initiated shipping last year its competitor, Google Home. The HomePod is not expected to ship until December 2017, and it will cost $349, that is nearly twice as the Echo ($179) and Google Home ($129) and is expensive.
Of course, this is nothing unusual for Apple to charge a premium for its technology products. For instance, the iPhone, is one of the most expensive smartphones, yet Apple sells it tens of millions every year.
In his talk of launching the device, Apple’s Phil Schiller positioned HomePod as a smart speaker for music lovers. He boasted the device had sophisticated hardware. It has seven small “tweeter” speakers in a ring arranged at the bottom of the unit and features in the middle a large 4-inch woofer.
In contrast, the reviewers have criticized regarding the sound quality of both, Google and Amazon speakers. The Echo has only two speakers, this includes a 2.5-inch woofer and it does not compare favorably to the HomePod.
The main question is about the audio quality success in this market. Apple is betting that there will be some customers to pay a big premium for superior sound quality. Google and Amazon are betting that majority customers will just not care for it.