Apple is making another game for the house
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has dabbled in the smart home for years without making much progress. HomeKit was supposed to be the hub of the smart home, but has fallen behind technological actions competing by the number of compatible products available and is still a bit awkward to use and configure. HomePod was never the widely adopted smart speaker Apple envisioned. And even Apple TV is not a “must-have” for Apple users. Put them together and the company just struggled to come up with a cohesive strategy around the house.
HomePod Mini, which premiered on Tuesday with iPhone 12, could change Apple’s fortune at home. It’s simple to use, packed with features, and most importantly, it’s inexpensive.
Apple fixes HomePod errors
When HomePod was introduced in 2018, it seemed like a logical product extension for Apple. The company was already big in music and Siri was built into iPhones, so a speakerphone was the next step. But the product started at $ 349, which makes it very expensive compared to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Echo and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) Home / Nest speakers.
HomePod Mini solves this problem, for just $ 99. And the form factor is much smaller than the original HomePod. The low cost and the ability to arrange rooms around the house make it a great home audio system, which would have been incredibly expensive with the original HomePod.
The other problem the HomePod Mini solves is integration with other Apple devices. The benefit of using the Apple ecosystem is that the products work together seamlessly. But there hasn’t been a lot of integration between newer products like CarPlay, AirPods, Apple Watch, and Home. New capabilities with the HomePod Mini like the Intercom feature are starting to tie all of these products together into a more cohesive ecosystem.
Will the HomePod Mini resonate with consumers?
Apple takes another look at what it says differentiates from Amazon and Alphabet in the smart home. Siri’s security was highlighted when the HomePod Mini launched, and it’ll be a big selling point if you’re someone who appreciates the security of Apple products.
The real innovation of the HomePod Mini could be its integration into the Apple ecosystem. Intercom function can be used between CarPlay at home or even AirPods. Being able to connect and communicate at this level could facilitate hands-free communication within the ecosystem of network connected devices.
The key concept for long-term thinking is “hands-free”. I think we’re starting to see Apple’s vision to connect people, devices, and services with just the sound of our voices. When used to the max, HomePod Mini can control a house’s temperature, lights, locks, garage door, music, and be a communication tool. What’s missing is integration with Apple TV, where it could even replace the remote.
What I have to ask myself is if the features will be used as Apple intended. HomeKit was originally meant to be a smart home hub for everyone, and although it’s included on hundreds of millions of iPhones, it still doesn’t lead to a smart home revolution. If HomePod Mini with Siri can open that line of communication between users and Apple’s home product, it could be a key connection point across the product ecosystem.
Is HomePod Mini a game-changer?
I see HomePod Mini as a step forward for Apple in building a connected device ecosystem that includes the home. But that’s not the key to the ecosystem (it’s the iPhone) or a revolutionary new gadget (AirPods), it’s a built-in product that will be a nice luxury addition for some users. And with the security Apple still includes in its products, this could be a device some users will welcome in their homes where Alexa and Google Assistant have been excluded.
This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.