o say I’m obsessed with speakers might be an
understatement. In eighth grade, I was sup-
posed to write an essay on my most valued pos-
session. I chose my Sony boombox. As an adult,
I now have a speaker in almost every room of
my house. So when I watched Apple announce
the new HomePod at this year’s Worldwide Developers Con-
ference, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Then I heard the price
($350) and things got a little more complicated.
In a lot of ways, Apple is late to the smart speaker party. In
addition to the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, Google recently
released a smart speaker of its own called Google Home. Not
only is Apple entering into an already crowded field, but it’s
also offering a product that’s significantly more expensive than
the Google Home ($129) and Amazon Echo ($179.99).
In order to justify the high price tag, Apple has made the
HomePod into a high-end speaker. It features seven beam-forming tweeters (that deliver higher sound frequencies) and
a 4-inch forward-facing subwoofer that in early demos delivers
impressive bass that far surpasses its competition (the Echo’s
woofer is only 2. 5 inches).
The HomePod also packs six microphones and the same A8
chip found in the iPhone 6. These impressive specs supposedly give the HomePod the smarts to scan the room and optimize sound quality to fit the space it’s in. Apple emphasized
the HomePod’s spatial awareness as its most distinctive feature, allowing one small device to take on the unprecedented
task of delivering a full surround sound experience.
The Echo and Home are both smart assistants first and
speakers second. Unlike the competition, the HomePod is a
premium speaker first and a smart assistant second. When
announcing the HomePod, Siri almost seemed like an af-
terthought. Apple executive Phil Schiller spent the majority
of his time describing the speaker’s sound quality and only
touched on the Siri integration at the end. Apple won’t release
the HomePod until December, so we’ll have to wait to fully
review the audio quality, but early demos certainly confirm the
HomePod is in a different audio class than both the Echo and
In some ways, Apple’s decision to make a premium smart
speaker makes a lot of sense given the overall position of its
product lineup. Apple has centered its entire business model
around making high-quality products that justify a higher price
tag than competitors and ultimately earn a higher profit mar-
gin. This strategy has allowed Apple to capture 80
percent of profits in the smartphone market despite
the iPhone only owning 14 percent of the market
However, Apple has an uphill battle competing
head on with the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The Echo has been out for a couple of years now
and has an impressive portfolio of third-party voice
apps called “skills.” Amazon Echo now has over
10,000 skills, including the ability to order a pizza, call
an Uber, or get the news from the New York Times.
Apple did not mention any third-party integrations,
so it’s safe to assume that at launch the HomePod
will only work with Apple’s built-in apps.
The Google Home is leveraging Google’s app and hardware
ecosystem, as well as Google’s expertise in search, to distinguish itself from the Echo and now the HomePod. Google
Home has the ability to work with Google services such as
Calendar and Maps to tell you your schedule and give you traffic information. It also works with Google’s media streaming
device Chromecast to control your TV. Google Home can also
distinguish between different family members’ voices to offer
personalized responses. Finally and perhaps unsurprisingly,
the Google Home is more accurate at searching the web to
respond to queries.
In some ways, a more natural competitor for the HomePod
may be the Sonos Play: 3. Sonos is the industry leader in high-end wireless speakers. The Play: 3 is a $300 wireless speaker
“Unlike the competition, the
HomePod is a premium
speaker ;rst and a smart