Late last night, Bloomberg‘s Apple-watcher Mark Gurman reported that HomePod sales have been well under expectations, and Apple has had to cut production as stock piles up in stores. Early this morning, the China Times followed up with a similar story with a very similar message: The HomePod is in trouble.
According to the China Times, Apple has cut HomePod production from 500,000 units per month in the first quarter to just 200,000 units per month in the second quarter. Some reduction in production is always to be expected, especially for an Apple product that’s been extensively teased in advance, but this kind of falloff suggests that Apple badly miscalculated something.
The obvious question is where Apple went wrong with the HomePod. The market for smart speakers is already big, and growing with every passing month. Some estimates suggest over 50 million smart speakers will be shipped this year, comparable to the number of smartwatches shipped in 2017.
The general consensus seems to be that with the HomePod, Apple is charging too much money for a product with too few features. Although the HomePod sounds undeniably great, it’s lacking some critical features to make it into a best-selling wireless speaker, like the lack of multi-room support or the ability to play back music from Spotify or Play Music. As a smart home control, it’s sorely lacking in terms of commands and third-party integrations compared to Amazon Alexa or the Google Home.
Potentially, the solution could be just down the road for Apple. The China Times suggests that a new, cheaper HomePod could be launched by the fourth quarter this year, while on the software side, multi-room support and stereo pairing should be enabled within a few months. The only question is whether it’s too little, too late for Apple to overthrow Amazon and its market-dominating Echo.