HomePod Gets a Price Decrease

Today Apple lowered the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299. It’s been clear from the start that the HomePod was way overvalued by Apple, considering its boost in sales whenever a 3rd party retailer lowers the price to $249 around the holidays.

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The HomePod isn’t the best smart speaker on the market despite being the most expensive. Google Home and the Amazon Echo severely outpace the HomePod’s capabilities as a smart assistant and at a fraction of the price. That being said, the HomePod is a perfectly good smart speaker for those already ingrained within the Apple ecosystem. If you want voice control over HomeKit, Apple Music, and Podcasts and want it all with phenomenal sound, then the HomePod is perfect.

I believe the HomePod is worth exactly $249 - all capabilities considered. That being said, if I think it’s worth $249, then it’s no question that Apple would value it at a $50 premium.


Follow Doug Davis on Twitter @thedougdavis and get blog updates @autonomous_blog.

iPad: A Plethora of Price Points

Apple started its Monday morning by announcing an update to the iPad Mini and introducing the new iPad Air. In a press release, Apple said:

Apple today introduced the all-new iPad Air in an ultra-thin 10.5-inch design, offering the latest innovations including Apple Pencil1 support and high-end performance at a breakthrough price.

Apple today also introduced the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, a major upgrade for iPad mini fans who love a compact, ultra-portable design packed with the latest technology.

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What’s New

iPad Mini: The iPad Mini was given internal updates in its processor and display, as well as an accessories update. Previously running an the A8 chip (released 2014), the new iPad Mini now contains Apple’s top-of-the-line A12 Bionic chip (released 2018). The Retina Display now also supports True Tone and wide color support, giving the new iPad Mini a 25% brighter display than the previous model. In addition to the internal specs, the iPad Mini now also supports the first generation Apple Pencil. All of these updates to the processor, display, and Apple Pencil support comes with no price increase. The 2019 iPad Mini starts at $399 - the same price as the 2014 iPad Mini.

iPad Air: The new iPad Air is essentially a specs and price update to what was previously known as the 10.5” iPad Pro, which was replaced by the 11” iPad Pro in October 2018. Where the previous 10.5” iPad Pro contained the A10X chip (released 2017), the iPad Air now has the A12 Bionic chip (released 2018). But not all of the changes to the 10.5” iPad were improvements. Where the previous 10.5” iPad Pro had a “ProMotion” display capable of outputting a 120hz refresh-rate, the new iPad Air no longer contains this technology. With the processor upgrade and the display downgrade, the 10.5” iPad Air starts at just $499 - down from $649 for the previous 10.5” iPad model.

The Price Points

These updates introduce several changes to the full line-up of iPad’s available from Apple in both specs and pricing. With the new line-up, an iPad is now available for purchase at price points between $329 and $1899. Specifically, the price points for each model are:

  • iPad: $329 - $559

  • iPad Mini: $399 - $679

  • iPad Air: $499 - $779

  • iPad Pro (11”): $799 - $1699

  • iPad Pro (12.9”): $999 - $1899

I think the wide range of price points is a wonderful move by Apple. While the price range has been between $329 - $1899 for a while now, the number of entry points has not. Before today’s updates and ignoring the previous 5-year old iPad Mini (that nobody in their right mind would buy in 2019), there was a massive starting price point gap between the $329 iPad and the $649 10.5” iPad Pro. Before today, a buyer had the option to buy a base model iPad for just $329 or a good iPad that was at least double the price.

Today’s moves by Apple blew the availability of the iPad wide open. The overall price range from $329 to $1899 hasn’t changed but the entry points are now incredibly well spread out. With so many spec options at a plethora of price points, there is now an iPad available for everyone.


Follow Doug Davis on Twitter @thedougdavis and get blog updates @autonomous_blog.

HomePod Holds Just 4% of Market Share

Joe Rossignol at MacRumors wrote:

HomePod shipments totaled 1.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 45 percent increase on a year-over-year basis, according to Strategy Analytics. Despite the growth, the research firm estimates that Apple's share of the worldwide smart speaker market was just 4.1 percent during the quarter. 

It’s really no surprise to me that Apple holds such a small portion of the total market share on smart speakers. Much like the rest of Apple’s product-line, the HomePod is expensive. The HomePod is not for everyday consumers and it’s clear that Apple had no intention of claiming that broader smart speaker market.

For the past several years, Apple has been constructing a walled-off garden of a device ecosystem. Within this garden, all of its devices (ideally) work smoothly in conjunction with one another. Some consumers might accidentally find themselves in this walled-off ecosystem, but I’d bet that the vast majority of them intentionally push into it. The HomePod is for those particular consumers that find themselves deep within the Apple ecosystem. Why buy a $50 Google Home Mini when a $350 HomePod could be fully integrated - without hassle - into the rest of your already existing device network? Sure, its a horrifically more expensive alternative, but Apple doesn’t care and Apple isn’t interested in selling the HomePod to the general populous anyway.

I’ve owned a HomePod now for several weeks and I can absolutely say that it meets all of my needs with regard to Apple Music playback, HomeKit support, calendar support, and reminders support. As one of those consumers who intentionally pushed deep into the Apple ecosystem, I just plugged in the HomePod and within 5 minutes of setup I was telling Siri to play my favorite music and add dish soap to my wife and I’s shared shopping list. For that 4% of the market share, the HomePod is the perfect smart speaker.

Google Home's "Interpreter Mode" Now Available

Google announced today that it’s Interpreter Mode, which had been piloted at several hotel concierge desks since January, is now available on all Google Home devices.

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Given the company’s work into Google Translate for the past 13 years, it makes sense that we’d finally see Google’s smart assistant able to become a real-time translator. While the service is certainly far from perfect at translating the ever-evolving norms of language, Google seems to think that the new Interpreter Mode is good enough and useful enough for the entire Google Home market.

Google gave the following example of its usefulness:

Previously, if the concierge staff at Caesars Palace needed to help a non-English speaking guest, they’d have to dial their in-house translation service and pass the phone back and forth with them. Now, with interpreter mode on the Google Home Hub, concierge staff can personally provide guest recommendations in real time—leading to better service, plus quicker and easier guest transactions.

I’m always on the lookout for gimmicky smart technology attempting to pass itself off as practical. Even if this new feature only meets the bare-minimum standards of usefulness, I believe this one definitely passes as a practical use of smart technology that’s only going to get better over time.

From a business standpoint, if there’s one thing better than selling a product direct to consumers, it’s selling a product to a company that sells direct to consumers. Not only is that recipe a goldmine, but by providing a product to hotels and airports, rather than only direct to a consumer’s home, Google is allowing its smart assistant line to become even more ubiquitous with everyday social structures. Whether you find yourself in your neighbor’s home, at a resort in Las Vegas, or in JFK Airport, the Google Home is becoming increasingly present.

You can try interpreter mode with 26 different languages on any Google Assistant-compatible device by saying “Hey Google, be my [language] interpreter.”

Amazon is Buying Eero

Amazon announced that they are acquiring Eero.

Amazon has been making serious strides in becoming the smart home company. Considering that company goal, its pretty obvious that Amazon would then need to purchase a successful, easy-to-use home-wifi mesh system to support all of those smart home devices being pumped out of the Amazon warehouse.

Currently, Eero can be used with any smart home ecosystem. As a user of Eero in my home, I’m not particularly concerned about Amazon’s acquisition of Eero. I in no way use Amazon’s smart home ecosystem and I highly doubt that the Eero devices would become walled-off from either Google’s or Apple’s ecosystems. The only smart devices that can be walled-off are 'change-of-state’ devices like lightbulbs, televisions, and thermostats. A ‘change-of-state’ device requires either an automated or manual input from the user in order to reach peak-functionality. A wifi-mesh system, on the other hand, simply needs to be turned on and stay on.

Eero is successful because it’s easy-to-use and requires very little input while setting up and almost no input after that point. Somehow, I don’t imagine an, “Alexa, turn off the wifi,” being a step toward easier-to-use functionality. Eero will no doubt continue to be a background system that just works on all ecosystems, now with more funding.