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Apple has lost the smart speaker war before it even began

Published Dec 27th, 2017 2:22PM EST
Amazon Echo vs. HomePod

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Apple a few weeks ago announced that its expensive HomePod smart speaker wasn’t going to be ready for a late 2017 launch, as promised initially, just as Google was getting ready to start selling its HomePod rival in time for Christmas.

Meanwhile, Amazon announced record sales for its own voice-based smart speakers, an announcement that further underscores the importance of this particular product category.

“Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were not only the top-selling Amazon devices this holiday season, but they were also the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon,” the retailer said in a press release earlier this week.

Amazon did not share actual sales numbers. And we don’t have similar estimates from Google at this time. But Echo devices, especially the Dot, are incredibly affordable and make for a no-brainer Christmas present. The Dot saw significant discounts through the November Black Friday sales, which made it even more accessible.

The same can be said about Google’s line of Home devices, which were also discounted during the holiday shopping season.

Apple’s HomePod, priced at $349, isn’t exactly as budget-friendly as its rivals. Nor is it as smart, as Apple positions it as a speaker first, rather than an intelligent home device.

Even if it were available to buyers this Christmas, the HomePod would have not sold as well as the cheap Echo and Homes from the competition. But, at least, Apple would have started competing against Amazon and Google, with particular emphasis on the former. Amazon seems to be the undisputed leader in the smart speaker business.

Projections from eMarketer quoted by VentureBeat said that smart speaker were on track to outsell wearable devices over the holiday season.

Apple’s Watch is outselling every competitor, but eMarketer argues that consumers may have a more difficult time justifying the need for a smartwatch compared to a smart speaker, given the price differences between them.

eMarketer projects that 54.5 million adults in the US will own some kind of wearable device. By the same year, there will be 52.8 million smart speaker users in the country, with smart speakers expected to see far greater rates of growth over the following two years.

Again, at $349, the HomePod isn’t cheap, and many people will ignore it in favor of Echo of Google Home alternatives. And it’s not like Apple is desperate to become the number one device maker by market share in any of the other categories it competes in. But it sure feels like Apple is losing a significant battle to Amazon right now.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.