Apple HomePod Mini: Why it beats Alexa and Google Assistant – Fast Company

February 1, 2022 by No Comments

When Apple got into the smart-speaker business with the HomePod four years ago with a sharp focus on music, it seemed to be miles behind Amazon and Google.

Those companies had spent years tacking on new features to their Alexa and Google Assistant speakers, and they had a long head start on integrating smart home devices. They’d even enlisted developers to create third-party voice skills so that users could order a Domino’s pizza or call for an Uber without lifting a finger. I admit that I bought the idea that they were building a post-phone ecosystem, and that Apple was a laggard.

But over time, that sprawling array of features has started to become a liability. Data reported on recently by Bloomberg—along with my own anecdotal experience—shows that people don’t often use their smart speakers for much beyond music and timers, and that doesn’t leave Amazon and Google with great business prospects for the speakers they’ve sold at thin-to-negative profit margins. Their attempts to clue people in to profitable features—for instance, with Alexa blurting out shopping offers in response to unrelated queries—tend to come off as unwelcome intrusions.

All of which puts Apple in a surprisingly strong position despite its late start. While the company’s market share is far lower than that of Amazon and Google, its narrower ambitions with HomePod are more in line with the way people actually use their smart speakers. Now that Apple is focusing on cheaper speakers with the HomePod Mini—it discontinued the original HomePod three years after launch—its focus could help the company win over customers in the long run, especially if Amazon’s and Google’s attempts to monetize their speakers become more desperate.

Signs of stagnation

As Bloomberg’s Priya Anand reported in December, Amazon has shown some concern with users’ level of engagement with Alexa.

Internal planning documents from 2019 stated that within three hours of activating an Alexa device, people discover about half the features they’ll ever end up using, and that new features don’t lead to higher engagement. In some years, Amazon’s data showed that 15% to 25% of users become inactive after two weeks, and most users were only using their speakers for music and timers.

Amazon disputed the report, telling Bloomberg that the metrics it cited are out of date, and that it’s seen increases in customer usage. Still, the story should ring true for a lot of people who own smart speakers.

My house, for instance, is filled with speakers from Amazon, Apple, and Google—acquired partly to fulfill my duties as a tech journalist and partly because they’re so often on sale for peanuts. I’ve got speakers in the living room, the bedroom, the basement, and my office, and there’s even an Echo Auto in my car. I think I qualify as a power user and am well aware of the many features these devices offer.

Yet I can count on two hands the number of functions for which I use these smart speakers with any regularity:

  • Playing music or ambient noise
  • Setting timers, alarms, and reminders
  • Adding items to a grocery list
  • Creating calendar appointments
  • Controlling a few smart home devices
  • Asking for basic information, like the weather or sports scores
  • Intercom functionality between speakers
  • Looking at family photos (on the smart …….



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