Xiaomi Launches $50 Smart Speaker Mimicking Apple HomePod
Xiaomi debuted a new, entry-level smart speaker called the XiaoAI Art Speaker on Thursday. The first metal-bodied smart speaker built by the Chinese tech giant, the Art Speaker may be the Apple HomePod lookalike patented by Xiaomi last year.
The smart speaker’s somewhat squat, cylindrical shape certainly evokes the look of the Apple HomePod, albeit imprecisely. As the name indicates, the XiaoAI voice assistant is integrated into the smart speaker, providing access to the voice assistant’s library of around 1,600 voice apps. As with Apple’s creation, the Art Speaker is built with touch controls as well, using multicolored light strips as indicators. The smart speaker can also connect to other XiaoAI-powered smart devices, of which there are more than 2,000, according to Xiaomi. Two of the speakers can be connected to act in stereo as well.
There is one very crucial difference between Xiaomi’s new smart speaker and the Apple HomePod, however. The Art Speaker costs just 349 yuan, about $49, while the HomePod will set you back $300. Xiaomi doesn’t have to compete directly with Apple at all though since the smart speaker is only available in China and the HomePod isn’t sold there. That’s part of why so many of Xiaomi’s designs and features seem to mimic the voice assistant tech built by Apple, Google, and Amazon. For instance, Xiaomi released a smart display at the end of last year that looks a lot like an Echo Show and sells a smartwatch that apes the Apple Watch in look and style. The same goes for XiaoAI, which added continued conversation to its repertoire last year, identical to what Amazon calls follow-up mode, and Google refers to as the conversation feature.
XiaoAI’s popularity has been growing quickly, according to Xiaomi’s quarterly report released this week. There were 70.5 million monthly active users of XiaoAI, a 54.9% leap up from last year. The same goes for its hardware, with 252 million devices on the Xiaomi Internet of Things platform, with 4.6 million users owning five or more devices on the platform. Xiaomi has harbored ambitions of expanding its tech beyond China, but as XiaoAI is limited to China, it would need to partner with another voice assistant developer or create its own. Huawei’s plans to put Google Assistant and Android on its international smartphones fell apart because of economic sanctions, leading Huawei to create a new voice assistant for them named Celia. Xiaomi isn’t under the same penalties, but the regulatory hurdles would be difficult to surmount. For now, Xiaomi’s super cheap smart speaker will be a Chinese-only product.