Apple’s HomePod was supposed to launch this December, perfectly timed to take advantage of the busy shopping period leading up to Christmas. But in what’s becoming something of a pattern, Apple last month announced that its highly anticipated smart speaker was going to be delayed until 2018. Apple didn’t provide a detailed explanation as to why, only noting that it needs “a little more time before it’s ready.”
All in all, Apple’s HomePod delay represents a huge missed opportunity as smart speakers were an incredibly popular gift this holiday season. Taking a look at the most popular apps on the App Store, the Alexa app for the Amazon Echo occupies the top spot. Google Home, meanwhile, was the sixth most popular free app. What’s more, Amazon’s Alexa app is currently the most popular free app for Android.
Clearly, smart speakers were incredibly popular with consumers this holiday season, though Apple was unable to take advantage of the trend. While it’s certainly better for Apple to deliver a product when it’s fully baked — as opposed to launching early with a host of problems — the HomePod delay represents a missed opportunity for Apple to attain control over the living room.
Now to be fair, Apple’s HomePod — which will retail for $349 — is decidedly pricier than the Amazon Echo and Google Home. That being the case, there’s no guarantee that a significant percentage of users who picked up a smart speaker from Amazon or Google would have opted for Apple’s HomePod had it been available.
As Bloomberg noted last week, “Google and Amazon aren’t necessarily trying to turn a profit from their devices, and that is why they’re engaging in a price war to the bottom on the lowest-priced versions of their home speakers.”
Still, with investors watching Apple’s financials with a laser-like focus, and with Apple still trying to boost revenue growth in a meaningful way, missing out on the busy holiday shopping season isn’t a good look.