Apple HomePod Coming to China in 2019, Now Selling in Spain and Mexico
Apple HomePod will begin selling in China in 2019 according to a new listing on the company’s websites for China and Hong Kong. First spotted by Bloomberg, the listing simply says “coming in early 2019” and the price will be RMB or HK $2,799 or approximately US $358. China is already well served by smart speaker makers with current offerings from Alibaba, Baidu, JD.com, and Xiaomi. Canalys data from Q3 2018 show that China accounted for 29% of global smart speaker sales in the quarter and that Alibaba and Xiaomi accounted for 71% of sales. That share was down from 94% in the first quarter of 2018 due to a quick rise in smart speaker sales by Baidu.
Apple HomePod May Soon Dominate China’s Premium Smart Speaker Segment
Apple may be entering a crowded market, but it will likely immediately become the leader in the premium smart speaker segment. Baidu stopped shipping its Raven H premium smart speaker earlier this year due to poor sales. No more than 10,000 units were manufactured according to reporting by The Information. At the time, Raven H was selling for RMB 1699, 32% less than the listed price for a new HomePod, but was not selling well while low-cost offerings from Alibaba and Xiaomi were selling up to a million units per quarter.
This situation leaves a significant gap in the premium smart speaker segment in China. HomePod has only captured 4.5% of the installed user base among U.S. adults as of September 2018 according to a national survey conducted by Voicebot. However, HomePod faces steep competition in the U.S. and Europe from premium smart speaker offerings from Bose, Bang & Olufsen, Google, JBL, Harman Kardon, Sonos, and others. All of those competitors today rely on voice assistants from either Amazon or Google, neither of which supports Mandarin or sells devices in China. Microsoft has a partnership with Xiaomi which uses the Cortana voice assistant in at least one smart speaker model and Samsung’s Bixby support Mandarin on the Galaxy S8 smartphone currently selling in the country so the forthcoming Galaxy Home could become a competitor. However, no non-Chinese company has any significant presence in the country’s smart speaker market.
The net result is that China could become Apple’s biggest advantage in the global battle for smart speaker consumers. HomePod unit sales won’t come close to those of Alibaba’s Tmall Genie which typically carries a price tag anywhere from one-sixth to one-fourteenth of the Apple smart speaker. However, Apple’s brand in China is strong and the high price point creates an opportunity for the company to command a significant share of smart speaker sales revenue.
HomePod is Also for Sale Today in Spain and Mexico
Apple HomePod missed its planned market entry in the U.S., U.K., and Australia in late 2017, and finally landed in February 2018. In June, it launched in Canada, France, and Germany and about six weeks ago also began selling in Spain and Mexico. This sudden geographic breadth makes Apple the third smart speaker maker that can legitimately claim to have a global presence. That presence is also expected to expand in 2019.
Siri currently supports language localization for 40 countries which will speed its time-to-market in places where Google and Amazon already have a presence as well as markets that are not currently served. Japan is a likely target for early 2019 given the strength of iPhone sales in the country and popularity of smart speakers. However, China may be the market that sets Apple HomePod apart. The big Chinese technology companies don’t have a clear path to selling their devices today outside of the country while Amazon and Google lead sales in the rest of the world but have no presence in China. Apple is the one company today poised to compete in nearly every country.
As of today, Amazon is selling smart speakers with localized language capabilities in 14 countries, Google in 18 countries and Apple in eight. China will represent the first market that Apple HomePod will precede entry of Amazon Echo or Google Home.
|Country||Amazon Echo||Google Home||Apple HomePod|
|Australia||Feb 2018||2017||Feb 2018|
|France||Jun 2018||2017||Jun 2018|
|Ireland||Jan 2018||Jun 2018|
|Italy||Oct 2018||Apr 2018|
|Mexico||Nov 2018||Jun 2018||Oct 2018|
|New Zealand||Feb 2018|
|Spain||Oct 2018||Jun 2018||Oct 2018|
|United Kingdom||2016||2017||Feb 2018|
|United States||2014||2016||Feb 2018|