On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Apple had removed its competitors’ audio products from its brick and mortar and online stores. The company has a launch event on October 13 for its new iPhone lineup, and it looks like they’ll have some company. Apple’s long-rumored over-ear headphones and more affordable, smaller HomePod will likely make their debut without any shelf comparisons to Sonos, Bose, and Logitech products.
The question is, can Apple do to speakers what it did to earphones with AirPods?
A new wall in the garden — In statements to Business Insider and Bloomberg, Apple said it regularly changes its third-party offerings based on the needs of its customers. Sonos — already embroiled in patent disputes with Google — took a hit on the stock market following the news and has struggled to rebound this week.
Apple is no stranger to pushing out competitors when it brings new products to market. Fitbits disappeared from Apple's retail outlets when the Apple Watch arrived, and luxury audio devices from third parties have slowly disappeared from its shelves since its Beats acquisition.
The company's increasingly impressive audio products have allowed the company to add significant revenue streams, and it seems like their finally ready to shut everyone else out. AirPods are a massive hit, likely in no small part due to people routinely losing one. With the AirPods Pro approaching perfection, Apple can focus on AirPods Studio — the rumored name for its over-ear headphones.
What’s probably coming — AirPods Studio will offer an alternative to the bass-forward Beats headphones and target Apple’s creative professional fan base. The headphones are expected to know when you take them off and could have interchangeable parts.
A cheaper HomePod would be the most accessible in Apple’s arsenal, and fill the compact-speaker shaped hole in Apple's line-up. The only other speakers you can currently buy from Apple are the Beats Pill+ and a conference speaker from Pioneer. The Pill+ is routinely outperformed by comparably priced and even more affordable Bluetooth speakers. At $300, the current HomePod is three times as expensive as Google’s new Nest Audio speaker which isn’t pulling any punches in the sound fidelity department.
Introducing a smart speaker in the Nest Audio and Amazon Echo’s price range could actually make this market a three-horse race... Siri notwithstanding. Last year, Google and Amazon shipped 80 percent of the world’s smart speakers. You can bet Apple would like a much larger slice of that pie.