Huawei AI Cube is a Smart Speaker, Wi-Fi router and 4G Modem in One

At this year’s IFA 2018 event in Berlin, Huawei debuted a smart speaker of its own, the Huawei AI Cube. The name is confusing, as there is nothing cube-like about it. Instead, it looks like an Amazon Echo shaped version of the Google Home. The name could be derived from the fact the AI Cube has four core functionalities (like a square?) rolled into one device. It is a smart speaker, Wi-Fi Router, 4G LTE Modem and has yet to be revealed further “AI-capabilities.” Huawei did not give further details about how these capabilities are different than that of Amazon’s Alexa which powers the device. Those who attended the demo revealed they could see no difference. Huawei was also not forthcoming with what the AI Cube will retail for, but it did disclose that it expects the device to be available in Europe by the holidays of this year.

Is the Cube Different Enough?

The smart speaker market is getting increasingly crowded. Many companies late to the game are trying different routes to differentiate themselves whether it be aesthetics or superior sound quality. Huawei is taking the functional approach by combining a smart speaker, Wi-Fi router and 4G Modem, so users do not have to rely on Wifi (even though it’s not portable). But in order for it to make an impression with consumers, it will need to deliver on two things. First, it will need to be able to ship by the holidays to gain maximum traction in the marketplace. Second, it will need to be priced competitively against that of the Amazon Echo and Google Home to seem like a solid choice for consumers who are looking for more from their smart speaker. These are two deciding factors that Huawei needs to deliver upon to stay competitive.

It is interesting that this is the second WiFi-router-plus-smart-speaker to be launched in the past week. In late August, Netgear launched Orbi Voice, a smart speaker plus mesh WiFi repeater. This may be a trend to add more value to internet access devices or it could be a way to differentiate smart speakers. Either way, we now will have two data points to see if the smart-speaker-plus market is popular with consumers.

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