Two months on from its launch, Apple’s debut smart speaker – the HomePod – is reportedly struggling to make headway in the market against the dominance of Amazon and Google.
The news comes as part of a report from Bloomberg, which cites a number of reasons as evidence of the HomePod’s struggles. The first, according to Apple staff, is the pile up of inventory in stores, with only small numbers of HomePod devices being sold on a daily basis. Second is that Apple has lowered sales forecasts and cut its orders with its hardware manufacturing partner, Inventec. Finally, the report cites market research that suggests that only 10% of smart speakers sold since their release have been HomePods.
The sentiments expressed in the piece tally with our own use of the speaker. In our review, we said that the HomePod’s great sound quality couldn’t make up for the fact that it simply couldn’t do a whole lot more. We thought it was something for the Apple fan who’s already bought into the ecosystem, rather than the average consumer.
The HomePod is expensive for a smart speaker. Its £319 price exceeds the cost of the Amazon Echo (£90) and Google Home (£129), and yet Siri is much less capable than the former voice assistants, offering nowhere near the same level of functionality. While Alexa can happily order you pizza or read out a recipe, Siri struggles to set more than one timer at a time.
What’s the competition?
Critics have responded to this allegation by saying that the HomePod isn’t trying to compete with smart speakers; it’s trying to compete with multiroom speakers. But even here there are problems.
The HomePod is designed for an Apple-only world, where everyone is using Apple Music played from their iOS devices. It isn’t designed for a modern household, where people are likely to own a mixture of Android and Apple devices, and use a variety of music streaming services.
Despite these problems, Bloomberg’s report is upbeat about the HomePod’s future. It launched without functionality that Apple has promised will be added later, and we imagine that it will be capable of plenty more besides. Plus, the HomePod is yet to experience a holiday shopping season, which should result in another sales boost.
Apple is clearly positioning the smart speaker as a long-term project, but at the moment no-one is sure whether this is a bet that will pay off.
What do you think about the HomePod’s chances? Let us know @TrustedReviews