Almost two years after the original HomePod was discontinued without a replacement in March 2021, Apple surprisingly announced a second-generation HomePod last week. The new HomePod is powered by the S7 chip, which was originally made for the Apple Watch, has five instead of seven tweeters and four instead of six microphones, which will likely improve Apple’s profit margin on the product compared to the original HomePod, which many considered over-engineered for its target group.
After all, most buyers of smart speakers appear to prioritize affordability and connectivity over sound quality, which explains why the original HomePod never really took off, while the HomePod mini, priced uncharacteristically competitively at $99, became an instant hit after its launch in 2020. There were still calls for a larger speaker from the Apple faithful, which is probably why the company decided to bring back the original HomePod, albeit with a changed recipe that is probably cheaper to make.
According to survey results from Statista Consumer Insights, Amazon remains the clear market leader in the smart speaker segment in the United States. Having invented the category with the release of the first Amazon Echo in 2014, the company’s strategy of keeping the speakers very affordable to get them into as many households as possible is paying off until this day. As opposed to Apple, Amazon’s focus has never been on sound quality, although it must be said that the sound quality of Echo devices has gradually improved with each iteration of the product. While 67 percent of smart speaker owners in the U.S. call an Echo device their own, just 21 percent have a HomePod in their household. Google Home and its successor Google Nest are ranked second and fourth in terms of popularity according to Statista, while Sony rounds off the top 5.