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Saturday, April 04, 2020

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker is not a failure: Here’s why

When Apple launched the HomePod in 2018, many people had expected a “cheap” smart speaker that would sell for under $100. As a result, many were quick to write off the HomePod. That was never Apple’s intention behind the HomePod.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi | Updated: February 17, 2020 6:56:49 pm
Apple, HomePod, Apple HomePod, Apple HomePod review, Apple HomePod price in India, Apple HomePod audio quality, HomePod vs Echo Studio The 0 HomePod is designed to appeal to a certain niche. Its purpose is to deliver the best audio experience. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Earlier last week, a new report from research firm Strategy Analytics revealed that Apple shipped 2.6 million HomePods in the last quarter of 2019. The big takeaway is that Apple shipped about a million more HomePods in Q4 2019 than it did in the year-ago quarter.

The Cupertino company shipped approximately 1.6 million HomePods units in Q4 2018, that number jumped to 2.6 million in Q4 2019. This means a year over year growth of 65 per cent, which beats the industry growth rate of 44.7 per cent.

With over 2.6 million HomePods shipped in the final quarter of 2019, the idea that Apple’s premium smart speaker has failed is a bit too much. So apparently, Apple HomePod isn’t a flop. In fact, the HomePod is selling really well, considering the smart speaker retails for $300 (roughly Rs 21,458) in the US.

Sure, the HomePod did not grow as quickly as the iPhone or Apple Watch. The good thing is that HomePod has managed to capture consumer imagination in the premium smart segment, where it is currently positioned.

It really does not matter whether Apple secures a fifth or sixth position in the smart speaker segment. Apple has never cared for market share or sale numbers. Things like market share should matter to Amazon, which is known for subsidising its products to sell them at a cheaper price. But for Apple that business model does not work.

When Apple launched the HomePod in 2018, many people had expected a “cheap” smart speaker that would sell for under $100. As a result, many were quick to write off the HomePod. That was never Apple’s intention behind the HomePod.

All of those who say the HomePod is a failure have misunderstood the product. The HomePod is not a cheap smart speaker. The $300 HomePod is designed to appeal to a certain niche. Its purpose is to deliver the best audio experience.

Apple, HomePod, Apple HomePod, Apple HomePod review, Apple HomePod price in India, Apple HomePod audio quality, HomePod vs Echo Studio Apple HomePod features built-in Siri support. (Image credit: Apple)

Whereas the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini fans aren’t interested in the best-sounding wireless smart speaker. They just want a smart speaker that can be controlled with their voice. It’s hard to see why the HomePod would appeal to the masses, given you are asking them to pay $300 for a smart speaker.

A 4.7 per cent market share is not necessarily a bad thing for Apple, either. Look, unlike Amazon or Google, Apple is at least making money by selling the hardware. That should matter to Apple and its investors.

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For Apple, the HomePod has served the purpose. It is clear that Apple had a different strategy with the HomePod. The success of the HomePod shows that there is a market for a $300 HomePod and consumers are willing to pay a premium for a high-end smart speaker.

In part, the HomePod’s success prompted Amazon to launch the $200 Echo Studio. Who would have thought Amazon would launch a high-end smart speaker? Even Amazon sees a market for high-end smart speakers and that’s exactly Apple’s rationale behind the HomePod.

Apple, HomePod, Apple HomePod, Apple HomePod review, Apple HomePod price in India, Apple HomePod audio quality, HomePod vs Echo Studio Amazon Echo Studio is directly competing against Apple’s HomePod. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

That focus on high-end HomePod has started to pay off for the company in the form of $250 AirPods Pro. The massive success of AirPods Pro is a testimony that consumers are willing to pay for a superior product.

Apple is betting on the long-term with the HomePod and AirPods Pro. The two products heavily focus on minimalist design and superior audio quality, something you cannot separate from Apple. But if there is one thing that other brands don’t have is the comfort of Apple’s ecosystem.

Apple will soon start selling the HomePod at Rs 20,000 in India. We will have our review up and running as soon as the HomePod hits retail shelves. Do you have any questions about the HomePod? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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