from the superior==more-expensive dept.
Apple's HomePod has failed to take away much market share from rival devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home:
When Apple Inc.'s HomePod smart speaker went on sale in January, it entered a market pioneered and dominated by Amazon's Echo lineup of Alexa-powered devices. Apple has been touting the HomePod's superior sound quality but so far hasn't enticed many consumers to part with $349.
By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec Corp., one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple, according to a person familiar with the matter.
At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. "Even when people had the ability to hear these things," he says, "it still didn't give Apple another spike."
During the HomePod's first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon's Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. Apple declined to comment.
The notion of Apple's "walled garden" ecosystem of products precedes even the iPhone. For as long as the company has existed, Apple products have worked best with other Apple products and that's been that. But the new HomePod speaker, which is going on sale today, ratchets this commitment up another notch. If you thought you were locked inside the Apple ecosystem before, buying a HomePod is like adding an iron ball to those chains.
The HomePod costs $349. That's a high price for the vast majority of people, and it pretty much guarantees that you'll be using the HomePod as the primary listening device in your home. The HomePod has voice control for music playback, but you'll have to be tapping into Apple's own Apple Music, iTunes tracks, or iTunes Match to take full advantage of Siri. Alternatively, you can use AirPlay from an Apple device, which gets you access to services like Spotify but with drastically simplified play / pause voice control. In any and all cases, to get the most out of the HomePod, you absolutely must have a subscription to an Apple music service and an iOS device to set the speaker up.
[...] Apple's HomePod is, by all accounts, a superb speaker that sets a new benchmark for sound quality in its size and price class. But it is also brazenly hostile to any hardware or service not made by Apple. If you decide to buy one, do so with the full awareness of how deeply ensconced inside the Apple bubble you will be.