For the past few months, Apple fans have been frantically trying to guess what Tim Cook and Co. have in store for 2018’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Rumors are flying that Apple might introduce the much-hyped iPhone SE 2 at the traditionally software-focused event, along with iOS 12, iPad and MacBook updates, and possibly more.
How about the HomePod? After some delays, Apple’s smart speaker made it to shelves on Feb. 9 and has since garnered surprisingly good reviews for its sound quality. (Its Siri integration is decidedly meh.) But now there is chatter that a cheaper HomePod — possibly with Beats branding — could be in the works.
This information comes from Chinese tech blog Sina, which cited sources from Apple’s supply chain in Taiwan. The report stated that Apple is in talks with MediaTek, a Taiwanese tech manufacturer, to develop a low-cost, Siri-powered speaker. But, just like many of the emerging Apple rumors, this should be taken with a grain of salt.
The idea of a cheaper HomePod isn’t completely new. Both the Economic Daily and Macokatara released reports that claim Apple is planning to release a cheaper version of its speaker in 2018. But neither of these insider sources stated that the new speaker would be affiliated with Beats — the audio product brand acquired by Apple in August 2014.
It is possible that Sina is confusing a separate AirPlay 2-powered Beats speaker that was said to be in development late in 2017. This upcoming product would be priced around $199 but would not include Siri functionality, which is a key component to HomePod devices.
A cheaper HomePod would make sense, seeing as the device retails for $349, while competing products with better A.I., like Amazon’s Echo Plus, go for around $150. But it doesn’t make sense to me that Apple would give the second iteration of a product like the HomePod totally different branding.
While an affordable smart speaker could change Apple’s presence in the home-assistant market, the rumor that it’ll be branded under Beats should raise some skepticism.