Apple has lowered the standard suggested retail price of its HomePod smart speaker from $349 to $299. The price drop follows slow and disappointing sales for the product, according to most analysts.
The speaker has seen temporary discounts at certain retailers before, but this appears to be a permanent adjustment to the base price.
It is uncommon for Apple to cut a price like this in the middle of a product’s lifespan, but it’s not unprecedented.
Reviews (including our own) praised the HomePod’s strong sound quality and other aspects of its engineering and design, but they commonly lamented the high price and criticized smart-home and voice-assistant features that lagged behind those in Google’s and Amazon’s products. Apple may be hoping this price drop will make the HomePod accessible to new potential buyers and drive more sales.
The HomePod has been consistently outsold by much cheaper alternatives from Google and Amazon, but the previous $349 pricing placed it firmly in a premium market that is much narrower than the one dominated by more accessible products from competitors. So a one-to-one sales comparison between, say, a HomePod and an Amazon Echo doesn’t tell us much. The HomePod arguably competes most directly with other audio-quality-oriented speakers like the Sonos One and the Google Home Max.
Apple harbors growing incentives to offer products like the HomePod at lower prices as it concentrates more on the services side of its business. The company does not offer an entry-level smart speaker, but it may need to introduce one to get Siri and Apple Music into more homes. The fact that Google and Amazon sell speakers that are more accessible gives their platforms a significant edge in the smart-home space.
Also in the audio space, Apple introduced the Powerbeats Pro true wireless headphones. Though they carry the Beats brand, you could look at them a bit like higher-end AirPods. At $250, they offer the same H1 Bluetooth chip in the latest iteration of the AirPods and have “Hey Siri” support. But their design is less likely to fall out of ill-fitting ears, they have superior battery life (nine hours), they offer better noise-isolation features (a common complaint with AirPods), and early reports are that they have better sound quality, too.
The Apple Music service was built out of Apple’s acquisition of Beats, but while the company closed down the Beats streaming service before essentially relaunching it as Apple Music, Apple still maintains separate audio product lines in the Apple and Beats brands.
Powerbeats Pro will begin shipping next month.