This fall, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) fans, smartphone manufacturers and AAPL investors will all be closely watching for the iPhone 8. The 10th anniversary iPhone — which is expected to be officially announced at a September event — is a big deal that’s bound to have an immediate impact on Apple’s bottom line and Apple stock.
But the Apple HomePod is expected to arrive just a few months later and it could also turn into a big deal. The global market for smart speakers is predicted to be worth over $13 billion by 2024.
Perhaps even more important than the direct revenue the devices generate is their role as a smart home hub. Any company that takes over the home with its smart speakers seems destined to be in the driver’s seat for the smart home, and that’s a much bigger prize.
Apple has been sitting this market out since Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) launched it with the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo in 2015; however, WWDC 2017 saw AAPL officially announce its own smart speaker — HomePod.
With seven tweeters, a big woofer, 360-degree audio and support for multi-speaker configurations, the $349 Siri-powered device isn’t even pretending to compete on price. AAPL intends it to be the best smart speaker for people who actually want to use it for listening to music.
With HomePod’s December launch date approaching, here’s the biggest competition AAPL stock will be facing.
Apple HomePod Competition: Amazon Echo
The one that started this whole race, the Amazon Echo is the undisputed leader in the smart speaker space.
Amazon has a sizable head start, market share, third-party support and multiple Echo smart speaker options ranging from $45 to $230, including the Echo Show with a built-in display.
The original Amazon Echo still goes for $180 and has a big bulls-eye target on it.
Apple HomePod Competition: Harman Kardon Invoke
AAPL isn’t the only tech company that’s behind in getting its virtual assistant into your home and taking a HiFi approach to taking on Amazon’s Echo.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) showed off its first Cortana-based smart speaker last December. The Invoke is designed by Harman Kardon or Harman International Industries (NASDAQ:HAR), which means it should give the Apple HomePod a run for looks, functionality and for audio quality as well.
The Invoke is expected to hit store shelves this fall.
Apple HomePod Competition: Google Home
Released in November 2016 and priced at $129, Google Home won’t replace anyone’s home stereo.
However, this smart speaker is significantly cheaper than an Apple HomePod, supports Google Assistant — which many people feel is superior to Siri — offers hands-free calling, multi-room audio and comes in multiple color options.
Apple HomePod Competition: New Amazon Echo Flagship?
Going up against the Amazon Echo will be a tough fight.
The competitive advantage for AAPL is expected to be superior audio performance (the company is positioning it as the best smart speaker for music lovers), but Amazon appears to have plans to minimize the effectiveness of that approach.
A recent report suggests a new flagship Amazon Echo is waiting in the wings, with an Apple HomePod-like short and cylindrical shape, mesh speaker covers and multiple drivers.
Other manufacturers are also preparing their own versions — including a rumored Bixby-powered smart speaker from Samsung Electronics (OTCMKTS:SSNLF).
The stage is definitely set for the battle for your smart speaker dollars this holiday season … a fight that will begin in earnest the moment Apple Inc. starts taking pre-orders for the $349 Apple HomePod in September.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.