Towards the start of the year leaks claimed that Apple had reduced the production of iPhone X handsets by 50 per cent due to slow sales over the Christmas period. Now something similar seems to be happening with the HomePod, Apple's Siri-powered smart speaker. Apparently orders have been so slow since launch that Apple has had to cut the number of orders and lower slaes projections.
This news comes courtesy of Bloomberg which notes that while the HomePod performed well during the pre-order phase, it hasn't performed quite so well after it launched. According to figures given to the site by Slice Intelligence the speaker claimed about a third of US smart speaker sales during the last week of January, though sales quickly tanked. Over the first 10 weeks of sale the speaker only managed to claim 10 per cent of the smart speaker market, compared to 14 per cent from Google and 73 per cent from Amazon. In fact, three weeks post-launch the HomePod was only averaging 4 per cent of the market share in weekly sales. Not a good position for Apple to be in.
Apparently this has led to a surplus of inventory, with some retailers claiming they're only selling 10 HomePods a day. Why ever would that be?
It seems likely that the problem lies with the HomePod itself. While experts have noted that the speaker has excellent, market-leading audio quality, everything else is a bit iffy. The speaker is overly reliant on connecting to a secondary iOS device, to the point where it only offers access to Apple's own audio services. Third party integration and Bluetooth connectivity are completely absent, with AirDrop being the only way to play services like Spotify onto the system. People have also criticised Siri's limited functionality and the limited number of compatible smart home devices. Naturally negative publicity won't have helped matters, particularly since Apple's response to claims HomePod was leaving rings in people's furniture essentially amounted to "eh, if it happens you'll have to try and refinish your furniture".
Some people will have been put off by the high price tag, especially since it's much higher than a lot of competitors. To the point where SONOS offered two of its One speakers for £349 - just £30 more than the £319 it costs to buy a HomePod. Similarly analysts have suggested that the delayed release meant Apple lost a significant number of sales it would have generated over the Christmas shopping period.
HomePod isn't dead by any means, but it does mean Apple is going to have to rethink its strategy in the future. Amazon and Google both beat it to the market, and while their products don't offer the same level of audio quality (except, maybe, Google Home Max, which is more expensive than the HomePod) they do offer more built-in functionality and choice. Even if Amazon and Google are neck-deep in a petty spat that has seem them pull products and services that would benefit someone other than themselves. [Bloomberg]