The HomePod isn’t selling as well as expected, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman:
During the HomePod’s first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says.
Setting aside the usual grain of salt that comes with reports on sales from non-Apple sources, I have absolutely no trouble believing that the HomePod isn’t performing as well as Apple would like.
Unit sales, of course, aren’t Cupertino’s primary driver:
Apple often says it doesn’t strive to sell the most units in any particular category and points to revenue and user experience instead.
The problem here is that usually Apple’s value proposition involves a more expensive device that brings you a better experience than that of its competitors. You pay more, but you get more.
But in the case of the HomePod, it’s hard to argue that the “better experience” is there. I have a HomePod in my office, along with an Echo, and it’s pretty much always a deliberate effort for me to remind myself to use Siri instead of just asking Alexa.
The reason is that not only does Alexa do pretty much everything that Siri does, but Alexa also does considerably more.
Yes, the HomePod is a great sounding speaker. Yes, its ability to recognize its wake word, no matter the volume, is better than the Echo’s. But the amount of tasks that it simply falls down on gives me little reason to use the voice control part of it. Even something like playing music, which is supposed to be its bread and butter, is unreliable in my experience. (Maybe that’s because I’m using it with iTunes Match instead of Apple Music, but that doesn’t really hold water as a good excuse. It should be able to reliably play the music in my library.)
It doesn’t help, as Gurman points out, that touted features like multi-room support and stereo pairing are still MIA, a couple months after the device’s release.
Rumor has it that a cheaper HomePod might be in the works, but that raises its own questions. For one, where does Apple cut costs? Is it by downgrading the audio quality, one of the few things the HomePod has going for it? For another, why is this the market in which Apple would compete on price, when it doesn’t in most other places?
But, most importantly, does any of that really matter if the company doesn’t deliver a more capable, more compelling version of its voice assistant, that’s good for more than just grade-school humor?