Apple’s HomePod was by all accounts an incredible device when it came to acoustic performance, but its $349 price point, not to mention a debut that was delayed until early 2018, prevented it from truly making an impact in the smart speaker market. So while the HomePod sounded amazing due to some of Apple’s audio engineering magic, it ultimately failed to garner a significant piece of market share from rivals like Amazon and Google
And so, about three years after it launched, Apple over the weekend discontinued the HomePod. TechCrunch broke the news on Friday and relays that Apple will still manufacture the HomePod mini and iterate on the device in the future.
While Apple’s decision here may come as a blow to audiophiles looking for a capable device that won’t break the bank, the simple reality is that most consumers aren’t willing to pay a premium for a superior sounding smart speaker when you can get a perfectly serviceable Amazon Echo for $99. Historically Apple has been able to command a premium for late-to-market devices by focusing on a top-notch user experience. The HomePod, however, just failed to resonate with consumers in a meaningful way.
Incidentally, Apple would eventually drop the price of the HomePod to $299 in April of 2019, but the move was viewed by many as too little too late.
Another factor that contributed to the HomePod’s demise is that Siri simply couldn’t compete with the range of functionality one could find with similar smart speakers from Google and Amazon. Another gripe prospective buyers had is that the HomePod didn’t support Spotify, the most popular music streaming service on the planet. Apple naturally wanted tight integration with Apple Music, but its effort to keep Spotify off the playing field undoubtedly cost it some sales.
Apple will continue to sell existing HomePods it already has in inventory, but no new devices will be manufactured going forward.
Commenting on the matter, Apple provided the following statement to TechCrunch:
HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.
Apple’s HomePod mini has many of the same shortcomings as its larger predecessor, but the device’s $99 price point makes it a lot easier to overlook said shortcomings. And while the sound quality of the HomePod mini is not as great as what you’d get with the original HomePod, the fact of the matter is that most consumers are not audiophiles and likely can’t tell much of a difference.
Apple never released specific sales figures for the HomePod, but we have to imagine that sales were incredibly low for it to ax a product that reportedly took upwards of five years to develop.