Amazon Reportedly Developing Echo With Better Sound Quality to Rival Apple HomePod and Other Speakers

Amazon is developing a higher-quality version of its popular Echo smart speaker, according to a new report today by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Prototypes of the cylindrical speaker are wider than the current Echo to squeeze in additional components including at least four tweeters, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter.
The speaker is reportedly being developed to include improved audio to rival Apple's HomePod and other competing speakers on the market. According to Gurman, the Echo has lost some ground to more premium smart speakers that are marketed as offering superior sound.
The Echo, which went on sale in 2015, will grab 63% of the U.S. market this year, according to EMarketer. But it has lost some ground to the Sonos One, Apple Inc. HomePod and Google Home Max -- all of which claim to deliver superior audio. Google now has 31% of the market, while the rest have a combined 12%. The HomePod isn't selling as well as Apple expected, and the company recently dropped the price.
The development of a higher-quality Echo marks a new phase in Amazon's attempt to gain ground in the smart speaker segment. The company has previously introduced halfway-house solutions to improve the audio of the existing cylindrical Echo by offering a standalone subwoofer and connections to link the speakers to a hi-fi stereo system. The Echo range will also receive minor updates this fall, people familiar with the plans told Bloomberg.

Amazon also reportedly plans to launch a hi-fidelity version of its music streaming service by the end of the year.

In addition, Gurman's report includes details on Amazon's effort to ramp up work on its home robot, which has wheels and can be controlled by Alexa voice commands.

People familiar with the project have reportedly described prototypes that are about waist-high and navigate with the help of an array of computer-vision cameras, but it still isn't clear what purpose the robot would serve.

Amazon originally intended to reveal the robot, known internally as "Vesta," as early as this year, but the machine isn't quite ready for mass production, according to the report.

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Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Launching in Japan and Taiwan This Summer

Apple has announced that its HomePod speaker will be available to order in Japan and Taiwan later this summer.


The speaker has had a slow worldwide rollout since launching in February 2018, with availability currently limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong.

In April, Apple lowered the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299 in the United States. As of the fourth quarter of 2018, the speaker had an estimated worldwide market share of just four percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

Pricing will be ¥32,800 in Japan and NT$9,900 in Taiwan.

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Tags: Japan, Taiwan
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Lead Creative Best Known for Spike Jonze HomePod Video Leaves Apple’s Ad Agency

Marketing creative Arnau Bosch Vergés, best known for the Spike Jonze-directed HomePod commercial "Welcome Home," is leaving Apple's ad agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab.


According to the The Drum, which broke the news, Vergés is departing to focus on SoundStorming, a social media platform he founded for musicians.
"After working for such a huge brand that means so much to culture with amazing talented people like Spike Jonze, you're spoiled," Bosch told The Drum. "You ask yourself, where am I going after this?

"I think if I really want to push for something different and try to discover what's going to be next, now is the best time ever, now Apple is at its peak."
Vergés HomePod ad, which used real-world effects where CGI would usually figure, won several industry awards last year, including one at Cannes Film Festival.

The lead creative's exit follows Apple's recent hire of Nick Law, a marketing executive who previously served as chief creative officer at Publicis Groupe.

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Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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iOS 13 Siri Live Radio Feature Already Working for Some HomePod and iPhone Users in Germany

At WWDC in June, Apple said iOS 13 would bring live radio requests to Siri from iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Radio.com, but it looks like that rollout is already underway ahead of the software's release in the fall.

Image via Macerkopf.de

Macerkopf.de this morning reports that some users in Germany are having success asking Siri to play live national radio stations over HomePods running the latest official software and via Apple Music on devices running iOS 12.

It's not clear how far the company has got in laying the groundwork for live radio Siri requests elsewhere, but Apple says that come the official global rollout in the fall, Apple device owners will have around 100,000 radio stations to choose from.

Other new features destined for HomePod this fall include Handoff for music, podcasts, and phone calls, as well as individual voice recognition for up to six users.


Apple says the latter feature will enable a personalized listening experience and personal access to messages, reminders, lists, and calendars, as well as the ability to make phone calls from the user's contacts.

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Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Deals Spotlight: Get the HomePod for Just $200 at Target ($100 Off)

Target is heading into the weekend with an all-new sale on Apple's HomePod smart speaker, now priced at $199.99, down from the original price of $299.99. At $100 off, this sale is the lowest we've ever seen on a brand new HomePod, and the best deal on the speaker so far in 2019.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

You can purchase the HomePod in either White or Space Gray on Target.com, and ship the speaker to your home or pick it up in-store. Additionally, Target RedCard holders have a chance to save an extra 5 percent on the HomePod.

Apple dropped the price of the HomePod from $349 to $299 back in April, hoping to boost sales for the speaker after some blowback to the steep cost of the device. You can find sales like this one and many more in our full Deals Roundup.

Related Roundups: Apple Deals, HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Gaining Handoff Support, AirPods Get Audio Sharing Feature

Apple at WWDC 2019 today announced that the HomePod is gaining Handoff support, allowing users to place an iPhone near the HomePod to hand over music, podcast, or a phone call.


Apple also announced that AirPods are getting a new Audio Sharing feature, allowing users to share a song or movie with a friend with just a tap.

Apple's WWDC 2019 keynote is underway. Stay tuned for updates…

Related Roundups: WWDC 2019, HomePod, AirPods 2
Tag: Handoff

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Apple Drops HomePod Price to $299, Down From $349

Apple today cut the price of HomePod on its online store by $50, with the smart speaker now listed for $299, down from $349. The price drop follows recent promotional discounts at several third-party retailers across the U.S.


Similar price reductions also appeared in other regions and territories on Thursday, with the price of a HomePod in the United Kingdom falling from £319 to £279, for instance.

Apple's expensive HomePod speaker accounted for just six percent of the U.S. smart speaker installed base through the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a February report.

Research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that the U.S. installed base of smart speakers reached 66 million units last quarter of 2018, suggesting HomePod sales in the country totaled around 3.96 million units since the speaker became available to order in January 2018. Apple does not disclose exact HomePod sales figures.

By comparison, the Amazon Echo and Google Home reportedly accounted for 70 percent and 24 percent of the installed base respectively, with both products proving to be popular holiday gifts.

In April 2018, well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple was "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod, potentially due to shipments of the current version being "far below market expectations." A report out of China said the lower-cost HomePod could be priced between $150 and $200 in the United States.

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Tag: Homepod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Apple Releases New 12.2 Software for the HomePod

Alongside the iOS 12.2 update that was introduced following Apple's services-focused "It's Show Time" event, Apple has also debuted a new 12.2 software update designed for the HomePod.

The new HomePod software will be installed automatically on the HomePod after you update to iOS 12.2, but you can also manually update and check your software version by following the instructions in our HomePod software how to.


According to the release notes for the update, the new software for the HomePod is minor in scale and designed specifically for university or enterprise users.
iOS 12.2 includes support for joining most enterprise or university campus 802.1x networks that do not require unique credentials to join.
There are no other features that appear to be included in the HomePod update. Right now, the HomePod is available in the United States, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong. For more details, make sure to check out our HomePod roundup.

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Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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HomePod Estimated to Have Just 4% Market Share Worldwide Despite 45% Sales Growth Last Quarter

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.


By comparison, Amazon and Google commanded the market with an estimated 13.7 million and 11.5 million smart speakers shipments respectively. The two companies combined for an estimated 65.5 percent market share in the quarter.


A lot of this comes down to pricing. At $349, the HomePod is significantly more expensive than the Amazon Echo and Google Home. In particular, the smaller Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini models were available for as low as $25 during the holiday season, a fraction of the cost of a HomePod.

"Amazon and Google both have broad model lineups, ranging from basic to high-end, with even more variants from Amazon. Apple of course has only its premium-priced HomePod, and likely won't gain significant share until it offers an entry-level product closer to Echo Dot and Home mini," CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz said last month.

To improve sales, many resellers offered the HomePod for $249 during the holiday season, and $279 is a commonly seen price too.

Second is the fact that the HomePod is not so smart, as many reviews found, due to Siri's shortcomings compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple recently restructured its Siri team as it works to make improvements.

A third reason is availability. Apple launched the HomePod two to three years after its largest competitors, and sales remain limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong. Amazon and Google smart speakers are available in more countries.

Last year, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple was "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod, potentially due to shipments falling "far below market expectations." It could end up being a Siri-enabled Beats speaker.

Of course, the Strategy Analytics data is estimated to begin with. Apple does not disclose HomePod sales, instead grouping the speaker under its "Wearables, Home, and Accessories" category in its earnings reports alongside the Apple Watch, Apple TV, AirPods, Beats, iPod touch, and other accessories.

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Apple Hires Ex-Microsoft Exec to Revamp Smart Home Business

CNBC reports that Apple has hired ex-Microsoft exec and former CEO of a smart lock company to revamp Apple's home initiatives.
Hiring Jadallah is the latest signal that Apple plans to get serious about its own efforts in the home. Recently, the company acquired a start-up called Pullstring, a start-up that specializes in voice-enabled toys. That purchase could help the smartphone maker become the center of a connected living room.
Apple has been making movement into the home space for years, with the introduction of HomeKit as well as the HomePod which is powered by Siri. HomePod, however, has lagged behind its competitors despite making steady improvements. Apple's latest hire as well as recent acquisition of a voice technology company seems to indicate that they are refocusing their efforts.


Sam Jadallah's Linkedin page

Jadallah was most recently CEO of failed smart lock company Otto. Otto was described as a "luxury smart lock":
With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios packed inside the surprisingly compact design, Otto promises to let you or anyone you choose inside with just a touch whenever it senses an authorized phone within range.
That company ultimately failed, but it appears that Jadallah will be applying that knowledge forward at Apple.

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