Apple HomePod by Beats: Cheaper but not enough to save it

Apple products don't always become an overnight success. Some take years of constant marketing to hammer them into consumers' skulls. So while the HomePod's reported lackluster sales are disappointing for Apple fans, they might not be as fatal as some predict it to be. That said, the company seems to be trying to salvage its image by making a rather odd move. Not only is it coming out with a cheaper HomePod, according to reports it might not be launched as a HomePod at all.

If you asks analysts, like former KGI Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo, the HomePod's flaw wasn't just the price per se. It was really about managing expectations. Apple defends the HomePod's $349 price tag by marketing it more as a premium audio accessory, but consumers still see it as a smart speaker and compare it with the Amazon Echo or the Google Home. And that is where the problem starts.

Very few will argue that the HomePod is great at its advertised audio chops. But when it comes integrating with Siri or your smart home, you're practically better off just talking to Siri on your iPhone or even your iPad. AirPlay 2.0, which would have given th HomePod more features, is still nowhere to be found. In terms of features, the HomePod offers little over equally or sometimes even less expensive high-quality speakers.

Apple is reportedly already trying to fix one of its mistakes but it might be barking at the wrong tree. According to sources, a cheaper iPad is in the works, one that will cost only $199, nearly half the price of the original. Things get a bit strange from there, however.

For one, Apple is supposedly talking with MediaTek to supply the silicon for this speaker. This is the first time Apple would partner with the Taiwanese company and almost feels like a snub of Qualcomm, which Apple is not very fond of lately. Additionally, the speaker is allegedly going to be a Beats-branded product, as if Apple is distancing itself from being directly associated with the cheaper product.

But as some analysts already explained, a HomePod by any other name or price would likely still flop unless Apple addresses consumers' biggest gripe about the first HomePod: capabilities. Apple has to improve Siri and AirPlay features to be on par with its rivals. The choice of MediaTek chips, however, might not inspire much confidence in terms of hardware performance.

Sadly, Apple doesn't seem to feel too rushed or pressured to step up its Siri game. It will most likely explain its pace as being necessary to ensure that its features will respect the privacy of users and will lose no time in bringing up a Facebook analogy. Still, unless it shows considerable improvement in the next version of the HomePad, regardless of the price or name, Apple will remain lagging behind Google which, itself, is already far behind Amazon in this market.