Samsung Galaxy Home Smart Speaker to Take on Apple HomePod and Google Home Max, But When?
- Samsung demonstrated its Galaxy Home smart speaker controlled by the Bixby voice assistant
- Product availability is not confirmed, but the company said it would reveal more details “soon” and some suspect that will be a November developer event
- The product is designed to compete in the premium smart speaker segment and go head-to-head with HomePod from Samsung’s fiercest rival, Apple
Samsung’s long awaited smart speaker product was debuted today in a New York City event. The Samsung Galaxy Home will compete in the high end of the smart speaker market as indicated in earlier leaks to the news media. This will place the device in direct competition with Apple HomePod and Google Home Max which are priced at $349 and $399 respectively. Samsung did not confirm pricing in the device pre-announcement today, but it is expected to retail for no less than $300 and be targeted at audiophiles that highly value sound quality. A video of the onstage demonstration can be viewed below.
SoundSteer and AKG as Technical Differentiation
Samsung leaned on its Harman Kardon division to deliver audio differentiation from other premium smart speakers. Ji Soo Yi, vice president of AI strategy for Samsung introduced the device by saying,
“When we designed this speaker, we set out to deliver high quality sound. Thankfully, with AKG every aspect of Galaxy Home is engineered to make your music sound amazing. It has an elegant circular form factor with six high range speakers to send the sound in every direction. It has a subwoofer that provides deep, rich bass as well. With Harman’s natural sound processing you get a realistic surround sound experience…We have also integrated Harman’s SoundSteer technology which detects your location and optimizes sound based on where you are in the room. Just say, ‘Hi Bixby. Soundsteer,’ and the music is directed right at you.”
The device includes eight microphones for far-field voice recognition. The top of the device has a display with basic lighting for what look like touch sensitive controls for music and presumably other functions along with the AKG logo. The housing is fabric with three metal legs and it is shaped like an egg with the top sheared off.
Bixby, SmartThings and Spotify integrations will ship with the product. It is not clear what other partners will support the device, but Samsung’s DJ Koh said in February that over 800 companies were working with a preview of Bixby 2.0 which presumably would be the primary integration point. Amazon and Google have a big head start with thousands of developers supporting the Alexa and Assistant platforms and tens of thousands of integrations. Samsung will be playing catch up for a long time. However, the Samsung ecosystem itself is very large and for many people that already own Samsung Galaxy smartphones, televisions and appliances, the adoption of a Bixby-powered smart speaker may meet most of their needs.
Galaxy Home to Battle for the Premium Segment
The premium smart speaker segment has become crowded very quickly. In some regards that makes sense because the highest priced devices should have the most sophisticated features. The Galaxy Home is going head-to-head with Apple HomePod, Google Home Max and Sonos One. It looks like HomePod has generated over $1 billion in revenue and along with Sonos each are evenly splitting about 8% market share in the U.S. Sonos just completed its IPO and intends to use the proceeds to build out its smart speaker portfolio. So, the premium segment is crowded and suddenly very competitive.
Samsung’s decision to focus on the premium segment is probably driven by how it views the competition. Samsung competes fiercely with Apple in the premium smartphone market and it needs to keep pace on accessories. Not surprisingly, Samsung also announced a new smart watch today. Thus far, Samsung has been bigger on announcements than reality around voice AI and smart speakers. It looks like things might be changing. The remaining question is whether consumers outside of South Korea will have interest in Bixby in general and Galaxy Home in particular.