SFR Debuts New Smart Speakers With French-Speaking Voice Assistant, Imitating Vodafone in Spain
French telecom provider SFR has launched two different smart speakers with its eponymous French-speaking voice assistant built-in. The SFR HomeSound and HomeSound Premium are were built in a partnership with Sagemcom Devialet, the same hardware developer behind the new Vodafone Átika smart speaker that came out just last week in Spain. The two HomeSound devices are SFR’s first smart speakers and are rolling out only a month after fellow French tech firm Orange started winding down sales of its own smart speaker in favor of pushing its Djingo voice assistant into more smart home devices.
The SoundHome smart speaker is a black cylinder with buttons on top, and only its reaction to voice commands revealing it to be more than just a standard audio speaker. Like Vodafone’s Spanish counterpart, Sagemcom incorporated both SFR’s voice assistant and Amazon Alexa as options. Devialet added its audio technology to the smart speaker, including an adaptive volume level feature that can make real-time changes to the volume depending on what’s being played, and Space, which is supposed to make the audio more immersive to listeners. The difference between the two smart speakers is that the SFR HomeSound Premium has up to five multi-directional speakers, and the standard version has three.
“SFR continues to accompany its customers across the digital value chain so that they benefit from an optimal user experience, delivered thanks to our ultra-fast networks,” SFR CEO Grégory Rabuel said in a statement. “The launch of the SFR HomeSound speakers, tapping the acoustic expertise of Devialet, demonstrates once again our desire to offer our customers the best experience possible and to make it accessible to the greatest possible number.”
SFR’s new devices also imitate Vodafone in being independent of its other services, but with a special appeal to their respective smart TV subscribers. In SFR’s case, the voice assistant isn’t entirely new. It first became available last year on the SFR Box 8 set-top for smart TVs. The SmartHome devices allow users to control their TVs by voice if they have the set-top, enabling them to adjust the playback and search for content by voice. The smart speakers are cheaper than Vodafone’s device, with the standard version costing €169, or €338 for two, and the premium option priced at €349. The Átika costs €399, but only €216 for Vodafone customers, a sale option SFR isn’t imitating.
As mentioned, SFR’s timing in announcing the new smart speaker is notable in its proximity to Vodafone’s debut and the Djingo Speaker’s withdrawal. The Djingo Speaker only lasted about a year, despite all of the hype from Orange and the shared development with Deutsche Telekom. The plan to be a French alternative to Amazon and Google fizzled in part because of a multi-month delay from the expected launch and the fact it cost twice what Orange originally suggested it would. Orange ended up partnering with its supposed rival Amazon and integrated Alexa as a voice assistant option, which SFR and Vodafone clearly didn’t see as an issue. SFR is also following in Orange’s smart speaker as smart TV aid footsteps, with unique voice controls for its smart TVs. Orange’s decision to focus on Djingo’s future as a smart home voice assistant could be SFR’s future, too, unless the SoundHome can overcome people’s preference for Amazon and Google smart speakers in France.