There have been several reports that a less expensive HomePod is coming on the heels of the original’s release earlier this year. While Apple offering a product that costs less than the current HomePod’s $349 seems like a no-brainer at some point, I have already stated my personal opinion that it is too early for Apple to make this move. If Apple doesn’t push Siri and its capabilities to power an intelligent speaker forward first, they risk a more affordable HomePod falling flat. That could really stunt the future potential of their efforts in a category that is still in its infancy.
Now we have another supply-chain based report of a less expensive HomePod from the Chinese site Sina. We all got a fresh lesson on how unreliable the supply chain rumors can be just a couple of weeks ago thanks to Apple’s recent earnings report. However, that was a little different situation, as analysts were looking to read tea leaves to predict Apple device sales. One thing about hardware rumors from the supply chain is that there is usually a at least a small amount of truth there…somewhere. The trick is figuring out which part hold that nugget of truth.
For example, we often see pictures of mockups and actual prototype hardware via supply chain leaks. However, it is often impossible for those who distribute this information to know exactly what they are reporting on. Are these photos or reports regarding devices that Apple is producing as products, or something they are simply investigating or testing?
I think this current report is a good example of this. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Apple is already investigating or testing out smaller HomePod designs. However, there is another piece to the Sina report that sets it apart from previous versions, and that is its mention of Beats branding. On one hand, I have serious doubts that Apple would mix its HomePod branding and its Beats brand, which has been kept separate from its mainline products since they acquired the company in 2014.
On the other hand, it also wouldn’t surprise me if Apple decided to include elements of the HomePod in a different Beats speaker product. If you think about it, this is exactly the path they have taken with the AirPods. While that product carries Apple’s own branding and is their flagship earbud product, they have taken many of the technologies from the AirPods and distributed them across Beats products. Most notably, the same W1 wireless chip found in the AirPods is also included in the Beats Solo3, Powerbeats3, and BeatsX cans and buds.
In an article at 9to5Mac, Chance Miller makes a very good point about how this same concept may apply to this rumored Beats speaker. He recalls that Apple has already said that Beats speakers with the new AirPlay 2 feature will be coming in the future. So if this new speaker does have Beats branding, don’t expect it to be called HomePod, or to have all of the features of the HomePod. However, a $199 Beats speaker with AirPlay 2 seems like a smart move. It would be less expensive than the HomePod, and depending on what other connectivity options Apple may include, it will likely also be more versatile. It could also give them a nice stop-gap speaker product while they get Siri up to speed for future HomePod-branded devices.
The WWDC Keynote is only two weeks from tomorrow. Who knows. Maybe we will be hearing about a new $199 Beats speaker, along with all of the other new goodies on tap. If so, will you be interested?