Rumors Fly of Beats Smart Speaker, Improved Siri and Only 600k HomePod’s Sold

Loup Ventures Apple analyst Gene Munster is predicting that the company will announce a new smart speaker next week at the annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). He is predicting that it will include Siri integration, be priced at $249 and carry Beats branding. Mr. Munster writes:

“The knock on HomePod is its $349 price is about 2-3x the price of a typical smart speaker. We believe Apple can advance its digital assistant ambitions with a $250 Beats-branded option that does not compromise HomePod’s $349 price point.”

This prediction follows other rumors of a lower-priced HomePod in the works with Beats branding first revealed in the Chinese publication Sina. Loveios reported earlier this month:

“The anonymous source claimed that Apple is preparing to announce the cheap version of HomePod. However, it will not be linked to Apple’s name. Instead, it will be under the Beats brand. As for price, the low-priced model would cost around $199, which is far cheaper than current HomePod’s cost.”

Protecting HomePod’s Premium Positioning

The reason to use the Beats brand would be to protect the premium positioning of the HomePod. This would seem more likely for a sub $200 device than a $250 price point which is still a premium in the smart speaker category. Taiwan’s Economic Daily News and Japan’s Mac Otakara reported in March that Apple was planning a new smart speaker for the second half of 2018 priced between $150 and $200. MacRumors covered the story saying:

“Today’s report cites industry sources who expect a more affordable HomePod to launch in the second half of 2018. It’s hard to decipher details from the loosely translated report, but Mac Otakara‘s coverage seems to suggest it will be a smaller speaker.”

This could point to either a new HomePod or Beats speaker. In fact, we could see a $250 HomePod Mini and $199 Beats model both introduced. Apple rumors are big business for media purveyors of page views and sketchy predictions are common as 9to5Mac reports. However, the idea that Apple would expand its smart speaker product portfolio is not far fetched. The rapid consumer adoption in the segment and the displacement of some tasks previously conducted on smartphones by smart speakers surely makes the category look strategic for Apple.

Only 600K HomePod’s Sold

Another interesting data point from the Loveios story is the indication that only 600,000 HomePods were sold in Q1 2018 after the product’s initial launch.  KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently revised his Apple HomePod forecast downward with the expectation of only 2-2.5 million devices in 2018. That is well below initial predictions by Loup Ventures of seven million in HomePod sales. Loup analyst Munster reiterated his prediction of “low-to-mid-teens” market share for HomePod which would still indicate the seven million unit forecast or higher. The introduction of a lower priced smart speaker could certainly help drive sales above the 2.5 million KGI forecast and an improved Siri may also help.

Siri to Improve. But How Much?

Munster also predicts that Apple will announce expanded Siri capabilities during WWDC which may make HomePod more attractive. The device has continually suffered in product reviews that compare Siri capabilities negatively to rival offerings from Amazon and Google. Munster says modest changes could make a big difference.

“Adding support for things like navigation and email would quickly improve the experience. Siri can also improve the information utility by simply integrating Spotlight Search.”

Increasing Siri capabilities seems likely given that the voice assistant started suggesting last week that  some changes will be announced at WWDC. If you ask Siri about WWDC, she will start dropping hints about a new voice and a new home that is “meshy and matte.” That new home would seem to indirectly confirm the introduction of a new or updated smart speaker. Whether Siri’s capabilities expand enough to get consumers excited about her as a voice assistant is an entirely different matter. Team Voicebot is excited to see if the performance matches the building hype.

Analyst Says Apple May Only Sell 2 Million HomePods in 2018

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