Apple Starts Selling HomePod Smart Speakers in India, But Only Through Resellers
Apple has begun selling its HomePod smart speaker in India after teasing its plans to do so in January. The HomePod costs 19,900 Rupees, about $280 or around $20 less than the price in the U.S. when it first came out in 2017.
India is the latest country to which Apple has brought the HomePod. The initial appearance of the HomePod on Apple’s India website coincided with the release of iOS 13.3.1 and its support for Indian English, also known as Hinglish, for the Siri voice assistant. Apple is also planning to open its first store in India this year, but the current health crisis may delay that plan. Instead, the buy button on the website redirects to approved Apple resellers. Apple is also emailing customers in India who have bought other Apple products that the smart speaker is available.
The HomePod is notable for its high-quality sound relative to many other smart speakers, but that may not be enough for Apple to grab much of a market share in the country. Amazon and Google made up 98% of the smart speakers in India, with Amazon in the lead at 59%, according to an IDC report last year. Those numbers aren’t likely to have significantly changed, and the HomePod now faces the Amazon Echos Studio smart speaker, which is built with similarly high-quality speakers, albeit at the slightly higher price of 22,999 Rupees or $300.
There’s also the matter of voice apps. Though Siri now speaks Indian English, Amazon added support for Hindi and Hinglish to Alexa last September, while Google and Vodaphone set up a free, dedicated phone line for people to call the Google assistant from any phone and upgraded its support of several Indic languages. Not speaking Hindi and other languages widely used in India may make the HomePod less appealing.
The HomePod does match its rivals in features like multi-user recognition and the music handoff feature, where an iPhone playing music brought near a HomePod will be able to switch to the smart speaker. And Siri in India now offers a lot of answers to questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including a self-assessment to help users determine if they have been infected. On the other hand, Amazon and Google are frequently rolling out new and improved features, while Apple appears to rely on brand recognition and s base high standard of quality to distinguish itself. Coupled with the limited purchasing options, especially when people are staying home to avoid the coronavirus, and the HomePod may not make the splash that Apple hopes.