Google’s new smart speakers take aim at Amazon’s dominance, pressures Apple ahead of HomePod launch

Alphabet Inc.’s Google “recently unveiled a suite of upgraded devices, including Google Home Mini and Max, as it closes in on Amazon’s dominance of smart speakers,” Teresa Rivas writes for Barron’s.

“IHS Markit’s Paul Erickson writes that Google had to get these to market, given the low price points that have allowed Amazon’s Echo products to proliferate,” Rivas writes. “Erickson calls the two Home speakers a first foothold for Google in which it took a page from Amazon, by making its devices more affordable… [But] he warns that Google still has two strikes against it in its competition with Amazon.”

The first is in the current positioning of the original Home speaker, still priced at $129 – bracketed by the revamped Amazon Echo with better two-way sound reproduction at $99, camera-equipped Echo Spot at $129, and the Zigbee-hub-equipped Echo Plus at $149… The second disadvantage is in bundling. Amazon’s current price-aggressive bundling of Echo Dot with its Fire TV products is expected to help keep Dot shipment volumes healthy despite the arrival of the Home Mini as a direct competitor. — Paul Erickson, IHS Markit

Apple's HomePod
Apple’s HomePod

Rivas writes, “That said, Google is also staking out its claim in the higher end of the market, as the Home Max, priced around $400, is now $50 more than Apple’s HomePod, previously deemed too expensive.”

MacDailyNews Take: “Deemed too expensive” by whom? Fake news much, Teresa?

Rivas writes, “Erickson warns that the pressure is on for Apple now since its home product still isn’t expected to debut until the end of the year.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s HomePod is obviously late (years late, in fact) as it’s missing the start of the holiday shopping season (Black Friday). Hopefully, it’ll debut as close to December 1st as possible.

Those who discount the power of Apple’s ecosystem or Apple’s advantages in sound quality, privacy, and vertical integration are amusing in their ignorance.

Once they finally get something shipping in quantity, it’ll be fun to watch how quickly Apple takes the top end of the market away from Amazon’s Echo since Apple’s solution will certainly have unique advantages within Apple’s ecosystem that makes it the obvious choice for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch users. — MacDailyNews, May 10, 2017

As Reddit user Arve stated after HomePod’s unveiling:

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”.

Ahead of Apple’s HomePod, Amazon announces smaller, cloth-covered $99 Echo – September 27, 2017
Why Apple’s HomePod will crush the Amazon Echo and Google Home – August 28, 2017
Apple’s HomePod is uniquely positioned to win the smart speaker market – August 25, 2017
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. I really don’t understand Apple. Apple is basically a hardware company and yet both Amazon and Google are able to push out hardware products with the greatest of ease while Apple seems to be struggling to keep up. I could understand if Apple’s products were light years ahead of the competition but I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore. Siri was basically left to rot after an early headstart. Now, Google is offering both a Home Mini and Home Max (plus free music for a year) while Apple is only able to offer the HomePod which will be available no sooner than December. Forget Amazon. They’re spitting out multiple Echo products like they were growing on trees.

    I’m not saying Apple is doing anything wrong but it just seems strange how Apple products seem to take longer to get to market. That HomePod had better be good but if it’s using the same stupid Siri, then Apple is going to have a device, that no matter how well the hardware works, that’s going to be substandard in the intelligence department. If the Home Max turns out to be a better product than Apple’s HomePod then I give up and admit Apple doesn’t have the edge I once thought it had.

    It really annoys me how all those products from non-hardware companies are being highly praised while Apple, a hardware company, should have the resources and skills to be putting out the praiseworthy products. Let’s see what Apple can do for consumers over the holidays. Boom or bust?

    1. Not sure, exactly, what “greatest of ease” means, as no one is tracking how late Google is to the table with a product, checking Google’s supply chain or Amazon’s, etc…

      Maybe Google wanted to ship this last spring but had a ton of issues. Who knows, because no one really cares.

      Apple’s Home Pod? Maybe Apple isn’t concerned about massively hitting this Christmas shopping season, because it wants more space for iPhone and Apple Watch.

      Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc… try to really find common commodity parts to build almost everything with. Apple? They want to build things right. Just look at Apple Watch – it’s absolutely amazing, and for an Android watch to get to what Apple Watch with LTE is, it would need to be about the side of a toaster on your wrist.

      Look at the Apple Home Pod. It’s custom all the way, which means everything is tooled and scaled. It’s a nasty difficult undertaking, but it delivers amazing hardware products, for those who care about such things – evidently, enough of us do.

      Apple is doing a pretty great job getting things out the door as soon as they can, despite consumers crying they want a flying car from Apple – now! Thus they are clearly late.

  2. While the HomePod may turn out to be the best dang Bluetooth sound system ever created, I haven’t found a reason to buy one for myself.

    I already have a full 5.1 Bluetooth sound system that didn’t cost much more than the HomePod, and it sounds great. If I needed a speaker for use as a digital assistant, I’m not so sure I would want Siri to be the supplier of information.

  3. Looking forward to seeing how the HomePod turns out. Not sure if I’ll be in the market for one though unless they can sell it as a smart home hub (so far it’s just an Apple Music speaker, which doesn’t interest me much). If music is the main thing they’ll push then I’ll probably just look for a portable bluetooth speaker that’s cheaper and offers me mobility.

  4. Well it seems the criticism is with the software rather than (most) of the hardware. Google don’t seem to have sorted their appalling website to even immediately show the Max but I eventually found it indirectly. It’s like a loaf of bread to look at and from the specs it’s not despite price in the same class as the HomePod looks to be. Apple would be laughed at if they launched that thing but other companies do seem to be judged differently. The new Pixels’ look pretty average to me, hardly in the same class as the new X even in specs. However We should remember last year and the praise the Pixel 1 got. Strange because immediately before the 2 launch last week all I seemed to read was how ordinary those phones actually were, strange that. Does make you wonder how objective the original reviews were then and what motivated the overt positivity. Even the supposedly top notch performing camera got a poor response from the last reviewer I read at the Telegraph. And dont let’s forget Amazon, their phones were a joke. As for tablets or Chromebooks they really can’t match Apples equivalents and sell on price not quality, as Google’s own overpriced versions show by their lack of take up. And if we even want to mention Microsoft in this company despite some superficially decent products that got generally good reviews, Surface devices lose money, have reliability problems that Apple would be slaughtered for in the press, and hey there is even talk the whole business will be closed down due to its failure to make an impact. Yet the press contrive to paint it as if it’s a major force. So let’s not get too taken in by all the hype from, and fawning over, these ‘competitors’ products, for with few exceptions they are generally average overall.

    So as I say it’s Siri that’s getting the pokes at the moment and with some good reason, it needs improvement and clearly those working upon it were underperforming and caught out by the opposition there. They had better get it sorted for the HomePod however I do agree or all its technical superiority in look and sound will be worth little to the reviewers.

  5. Lol, Siri on a speaker? Hey Siri, what is BlazBlue? Siri: “Here’s what I found on the web for “what is blaze blue?” Try it on the iPhone, with Siri, Alexa, and Google’s Assistant. Siri fails, epically so.

    Devin Prater Assistive Technology instructor in training, JAWS Sertified.


    1. Indeed. If I get a HomePod, it won’t be for Siri. She is absolutely worthless and should still be labelled “beta.” I’m embarrassed for Apple that it has let it lag so far behind in workability or usefulness.

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