Sells Apple bluetooth speakers

Homepod: flop or success? Where are you going next?

Stephan Wiesend

Apple's Homepod is not selling badly, but it can't keep up with Apple's successes like Airpods and iPad. What is it

EnlargeThe Homepod almost looks like a failure next to the Airpods.

"Great sound, but Siri is just a little stupid". That's the usual comment when reading user reviews of Apple's Homepod. Comparatively seldom do you see other points of criticism than the much scolded and sometimes really dumb Siri - many are bothered by the close connection to Apple Music. On the other hand, there is almost no criticism of the sound quality. Strange, actually, isn't that the most important quality of a music player? Then why is there no homepod in every big city apartment? And why are the Airpods so much more successful?

Is the Homepod a success or a flop?

The question of whether Apple's smart speaker is a success or a failure is not that easy to answer. According to the reviews of buyers, they seem to be mostly satisfied. Also a good sign: You can rarely find used home pods on Ebay. If someone has decided to buy, they rarely regret it. Apple has not yet published any official sales figures, the market researchers from Strategy Analytics estimate sales in the last quarter of 2019 at 2.6 million units - maybe 10 million units a year. An increase over the previous year and at a unit price of $ 300, sales of almost $ 800 million. In the same period, however, Amazon alone had sold 15.9 million so-called smart speakers. Google recently had many successes with its speakers upgraded with Google Assistant and came very close to Amazon with 13.9 million units. For Apple it is only enough for a sixth place after Baidu, Alibaba and Xiaomi.

EnlargeSales of the Homepod rose a bit in the last quarter, but Apple is still one of the lower ranks.
© Strategy Analytics

However, the question is justified whether Apple's Homepod is classified in the correct product category here? If you compare it with high-end wireless speaker systems such as Sonos One and Google Max, it scores far more successfully. On the other hand, you can probably expect a little more from Apple: After all, Cupertino only has one loudspeaker on offer - which should sell better. Apple is far more successful with headphones; Apple is said to have sold around 60 million Airpods alone in 2019 - six times the number of Homepods. And the new Airpods Pro cost little less than a home pod.

The timing, however, was probably particularly unfavorable: When Apple presented its loudspeaker, Cupertino was more likely to focus on the expensive wireless speakers from Sonos or design systems from Bose - less Alexa and Google Assistant.

Optimal sound quality was the goal and here the Homepod beats most smart speakers by far. As a digital assistant, however, the Homepod could not keep up, as it also lacks access to online databases and user accounts such as Alexa. Last but not least, compared to a current iPhone, Siri is also slowed down by a lame A8 processor at iPhone 6 level. If you buy a “smart speaker” you obviously want a reliable assistant who understands questions and commands immediately and executes them reliably, and not just a great-sounding loudspeaker.

Or as a colleague put it: The users didn't understand why something, like a smartspeaker looks like, how a smartspeaker works, costs as much as a smartspeaker, is then not a smartspeaker but an Apple Music player?

The first disappointment for many buyers.

Small target group

When a product appears, it is difficult to assess its success. At first glance, the Homepod made a great impression. If you look at the potential target group, however, if you take a closer look, it becomes smaller and smaller, especially in direct comparison to the widely appreciated Airpods:

Even if it sounds trivial, it starts with listening habits: To use it, you have to like to listen to music at home, which already excludes many mobile Apple fans. For many younger users, Bluetooth speakers make more sense or are good headphones like the Airpods and not a heavy block that requires an electrical outlet. Another exclusion criterion: The music to be heard on the Homepod should better be Apple Music, which further limits the target group. You can use Spotifiy or another streaming service via Air Play - but that's not very convenient. The Homepod is clearly tailored to Apple Music, another difference to the Airpods. According to John Gruber and our personal assessment, Apple earns little money from the high-quality speaker system, but at 330 euros it is still not a bargain. At a price of 330 euros, it is too expensive as a spontaneous purchase or everyday gift - as a Christmas present you prefer to use the new Airpods, which everyone is sure to be happy about. For a stereo effect you also need two of the devices, so you have to invest 660 euros. The fourth restriction: The remaining music fans have to accept a fixed, predetermined sound profile - predetermined by an automatic system - with a present bass, which is optimized primarily for rock, pop and hip-hop. Not ideal for classical music fans or fans of neutral sound.

As a result, there are now not many possible customers left of all Apple users who may already be using a system from Sonos, Ikea, Bose. The Airpods, which - it is hard to believe - can even be used very well on an Android smartphone, are completely different.

Conclusion:

The Homepod actually deserved a second chance, the classification as Smart Speaker is a misunderstanding. Even more: When sales started, the price was too high and the software was not perfect, but Apple has improved a lot here. Before you buy, you still have to be clear: it is primarily intended for listening to music and tailored to Apple Music - less so for reading recipes or alternative streaming services.