Apple Launches HomePod Mini Speaker After First Model Flopped
(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. announced a cheaper and smaller version of its HomePod smart speaker, a bid to expand in a market where it has struggled.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant showed off the HomePod mini speaker at a virtual event on Tuesday. The new model costs $99 and looks like a sphere, but it has the same black and white mesh color options as the original. Orders begin Nov. 6 and the device becomes available the week of Nov. 16 in most places.
The sphere design makes the HomePod mini look similar to the latest Amazon.com Inc. Echo speakers. The new HomePod continues to have a touch panel on the top for audio playback but no screen. In announcing the device, Apple executives highlighted sound quality, ease of use and privacy.
The new model can also sense when an iPhone is nearby so Apple users can more easily control the speaker. The company also announced a new Intercom feature to let users send messages between HomePods around the home.
To keep the costs and size down, it also has fewer tweeters -- the actual speakers inside the devices. It also has an S5 chip from Apple Watch, rather than the A8 processor from the iPhone that powers the original HomePod.
Earlier this year, Apple said it would add support for third-party music services. On Tuesday, Apple mentioned “popular music services including Pandora and Amazon Music,” but did not say the word “Spotify.”
The first model, launched in 2018, only has the ability to stream directly from Apple Music and has had limited support from other developers’ apps and different smart-home devices.
The first HomePod has been a rare failure for Apple with the product gaining less than 3% of the smart speaker market as of earlier this year, according to data from Voicebot. That compares with 31% for Google and 53% for Amazon. The product has been panned for limited functionality, but praised for its sound quality.
A cheaper model could help Apple gain some share, but it’s unclear how many Apple users would be willing to try the second generation of the product. Bloomberg reported on the smaller HomePod earlier this year. Last month, Apple stopped selling rival speakers and headphones, clearing the way for consumers to focus on the new Apple offering.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.