Xiaomi Patents Apple HomePod Lookalike Smart Speaker
Xiaomi has patented a smart speaker design that appears to be almost identical to the Apple HomePod. The newly patented smart speaker doesn’t have an official name or planned release date, but it looks like the Chinese tech firm is going for the same flourishes that make the HomePod stand out from its rivals.
The smart speaker patent has been published by China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). The cylinder shape seen in the included images look very much like the Apple HomePod, but that doesn’t mean it will be identical in features. The patent describes a touch-sensitive area that can control the speaker by hand or through gestures and says the sound will be played from the entire cylinder. The top of the speaker may also include a small display to indicate if the device is connected to the internet and the volume setting.
This isn’t the first time that a Xiaomi product looked the same as one produced by Apple. The Mi Watch released in November looks almost identical to the Apple Watch, albeit at a much lower cost. That may be the same approach Xiaomi will take with the smart speaker, although it’s too early to make any prediction of price.
That there aren’t any buttons on the smart speaker means it will only be controllable through the touchpad or by voice if it’s built to match the patent. The voice it uses will likely depend on where Xiaomi wants to sell it. If it’s only for the Chinese market, it will probably use the XiaoAI voice assistant built in-house. Any attempt to sell beyond China, however, will require an alternative. That could mean a deal with Amazon or Google to add Alexa or Google Assistant.
Making that deal in the current political climate might be tough. Even though Xiaomi isn’t facing the same economic sanctions that scuttled Huawei’s chance to have Google Assistant and Android on the smartphones it sells outside of China, any deal would still be scrutinized by regulators. And, a smart speaker won’t be able to be as ecumenical as the Mi Outdoor speaker that Xiaomi launched earlier this year in India. The Mi Outdoor speaker can handle any major voice assistant but requires a connection to a different device that already has a voice assistant.