How Apple may compete with Amazon’s Echo and Google Home


Speculation over what Apple will do to compete in the home hub market is spinning up ahead of Apple’s annual developers conference next week, where many analysts expect the company to confirm the project. And what will be the Apple home hub’s distinguishing feature? It may be sound quality, according a report from Bloomberg News.

The Siri-infused speaker will really focus on producing quality surround sound and may also have a feature that can measure the room it’s in and adjust its sound accordingly, the report said. Although there were no details on how this room-adapting feature works, it sounds similar to one already on Sonos speakers, called Trueplay, that uses the microphone in an iOS device to measure a room.

Apple declined to comment on the report.

Focusing on sound quality would give Apple an advantage, particularly given its historical strength in music, if it moves to another front in its war against Google and Amazon.com. Both of those companies already have smart speakers on the market that integrate with their services, but they aren’t going to challenge Bose or other high-end speaker systems. Still, it will be stiff competition. Both Google and Amazon are continually adding features to their devices and the voice assistants they house. Google, at its own developers conference, announced that its Google Home will work with more devices, thanks to a Bluetooth connection, as well as even deeper integration with its own services. And Amazon on Thursday announced that its Echo line of smart home hubs now lets users further customize their reminders and timers on the device — a small but useful update for two core uses of these devices.

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(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)

Apart from focusing on sound quality, Apple will also have to find ways to leverage its own ecosystem of services — iTunes, the App Store, HomeKit, Siri and more — to convince potential buyers that its hub is right for them.

It’s not yet clear how Apple will do this, although Bloomberg reports that there will be “deep integration” with Apple services. However, contrary to prior reports from analysts, the Bloomberg report said Apple’s home hub will not have a screen. That could mean it won’t compete, as expected, with Amazon’s recent Echo Look — a home hub that allows for video calling and potentially threatens Apple’s FaceTime.

Still, Apple has laid some groundwork in the home hub space before, by allowing some smart home devices such as lightbulbs to be controlled through its Apple TV, and prominently featuring its own apps for the living room. A smart speaker that builds on what Apple TV has offered would give users more flexibility to decide where to place their home hub.

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