China’s Xiaomi launches a $44 Amazon Echo rival

“Xiaomi launched its own smart speaker on Wednesday to rival the likes of the Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod but for a fraction of the price,” Arjun Kharpal reports for CNBC. “The Mi AI speaker costs 299 yuan ($44) less than the $349 for Apple’s HomePod and $179.99 for the Amazon Echo.”

MacDailyNews Take: Kharpal doesn’t get it. A $49 POS doesn’t compete with Apple’s HomePod. It’s not targeting the same type of buyer at all. Amazon, on the other hand, if they want to compete, is about to see its margins collapse.

“It’s a white tall speaker with Xiaomi’s ‘Mi’ branding on it and contains six microphones in order to hear a user no matter which side of the device they are standing. The speaker employs artificial intelligence that allows users to speak to it,” Kharpal reports. “Xiaomi is releasing the device in August in China through a beta program where 1,000 recruited users will pay 1 yuan each to get a speaker. Through speaking to it, the users will help train the smart speaker. This is how voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa get smarter. It requires data in the form of people talking to it.”

Kharpal reports, “The smart speaker space is getting incredibly crowded and even in China, e-commerce giant Alibaba has its own version called Tmall Genie.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The race to the bottom of the barrel – where Apple does not compete – has begun, leaving the high end of the smart speaker market, and all of the profits, for Apple!

As per HomePod via Reddit user Arve:

1. They’re using some form of dynamic modeling, and likely also current sensing that allows them to have a p-p excursion of 20 mm in a 4″ driver. This is completely unheard of in the home market. You can read an introduction to the topic here. The practical upshot is that that 4″ driver can go louder than larger drivers, and with significantly less distortion. It’s also stuff you typically find in speakers with five-figure price tags (The Beolab 90 does this, and I also suspect that the Kii Three does). It’s a quantum leap over what a typical passive speaker does, and you don’t really even find it in higher-end powered speakers

2. The speaker uses six integrated beamforming microphones to probe the room dimensions, and alter its output so it sounds its best wherever it is placed in the room. It’ll know how large the room is, and where in the room it is placed.

3. The room correction applied after probing its own position isn’t simplistic DSP of frequency response, as the speaker has seven drivers that are used to create a beamforming speaker array,. so they can direct specific sound in specific directions. The only other speakers that do this is the Beolab 90, and Lexicon SL-1. The Beolab 90 is $85,000/pair, and no price tag is set for the Lexicon, but the expectation in the industry is “astronomical”.

So yes, compared to the typical sub-$2000 speaker, the technology they apply may just as well be considered “magic”.

Newsflash: Apple sells premium products at premium prices to premium customers – October 23, 2012

Consumers appear eager to buy Apple’s upcoming HomePod smart speaker – July 14, 2017
After seeing Apple’s HomePod, Amazon is working on an Apple HomePod echo – July 14, 2017
Apple Watch and AirPods in high demand; HomePod buying intent outpaces Amazon Echo – July 10, 2017
Apple’s HomePod could have an even more successful start than Apple Watch – July 7, 2017
Amazon Echo has a problem: Apple’s HomePod has major advantage over rivals – June 18, 2017
Apple’s HomePod first impressions: Lots of mystery, impressive sound quality – June 8, 2017
With HomePod, Apple just wants to shake things up (for now) – June 7, 2017
Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo – June 7, 2017
CNET: Apple’s HomePod offers superior sound quality vs. Amazon Echo and Sonos Play:3 – June 6, 2017
Apple’s new HomePod sounds incredible! – June 6, 2017
Apple HomePod takes on Amazon Echo – June 6, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017


  1. it will be hard for Xiaomi to shed my impression of a fast-follower producing copied rig with poor quality. with this device it also has the stink of the Chinese Big Brother constantly monitoring what it hears, despite all reassurances to the contrary. nope nope nope

    1. Samsung have done well enough by being a fast follower. I’m sure that Xiaomi would be happy to do something similar, but probably bigger.

      To Chinese customers, a Chinese fast follower would be much more appealing than a Korean fast follower and there is no stigma at all concerning copying in China.

  2. HAHAHA! $44. Tin can. String. Suzy Lu at the other end at your service.

    Seriously. What is a person to expect of an ‘AI’ device for $44? One thing you can expect is that it will have all the IoT security FAILs we’re used at this point in IoT’s nefarious history. PWN The Can.

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