Will Apple reinvent the smart speaker?

Apple, late to the game with its HomePod answer to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Nest Audio (the latest name), is rumored to be redefining the smart speaker category. According to MacRumors, Apple’s next HomePod will be a combination of smart speaker, Apple TV, and FaceTime camera. While Interpret has no inside information to confirm or challenge the validity of this rumor, the thought of a new product combo from Apple is worthy of consideration. 

Apple is disappointingly absent from the smart home space. While iOS features HomeKit, providing a centralized app platform for smart home device control, the company is yet to use its celebrated design skills (hardware and software) to create a game-changing line of Wi-Fi security cameras, smart locks, smart doorbells, and smart thermostats.

While Apple likely recognizes that growth of the smart home products industry has been slow to develop, the company must also recognize that the time is ripe as Amazon and Google are increasingly positioned to play major roles in smart home. What company is better positioned with consumers than Apple to lure them into a complete line of interoperable, single-vendor smart home devices?

If Apple is readying a new type of smart speaker device that includes Apple TV, there are many possibilities to ponder. Will it be a smart display device with the functionality of Apple TV? Will it be a FaceTime appliance, turning the kitchen counter into mission control to video chat with anyone with an iPhone? Will it cast Apple TV-streamed content to TVs around the home without requiring other Apple TV devices to be plugged into TVs? Will this new device resemble Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub and play catch up, or will it be a new class of home appliance?

Rumors of Apple’s future do not include doorbell cameras or Wi-Fi security cameras, thermostats or door locks, and Apple’s support for third-party smart home devices has been lackluster. It is unlikely that the next generation HomePod will be positioned as a smart home hub, yet the opportunity for Apple to be a leading player in smart home devices remains wide open.

“Apple is more likely to use its strength with Apple TV and Apple TV + to seek to bridge the gap between home control devices and home entertainment devices and services than to become a leading home automation hub,” said Stuart Sikes, Interpret SVP. “Apple’s reputation for making experiences simple would be very welcome in home automation, yet the company has, thus far, offered few devices in this category.”