Why Apple’s Rumored Smart Display Could Be a Gamble 2021


Key Takeaways

Apple reportedly is working on a new HomePod with a smart display to rival Google Nest and Amazon Echo devices. Experts say that Apple will need to balance functionality and cost if it wants to appeal to users willing to purchase smart displays.Despite their success, experts say smart displays are still in the early-adoption phase and need a lot more work before becoming our primary points of interaction with voice technology. Sam Pak / Unsplash

Rumors of an Apple smart display have been swirling, but experts say the company will need to really stand out if it wants to succeed where others like Google and Amazon already have established a market.

With the more-expensive HomePod discontinued, it only makes sense for Apple to look to fill the gap with something new. A Bloomberg report noted that Apple has been working on a new speaker with screens and cameras.

No details are available yet, but if Apple does make a move to smart displays, experts believe it will need to do something genuinely innovative for the device to take off and be picked up by everyday users.

"To stand out against its competitors, Apple must be innovative. Including a screen to make any device more intuitive for the customer is normal," Neil John, a tech enthusiast and software engineer, told Ach5 via email.

"However, not bringing up an idea of your own and being creative with your device will be a drawback."

Moving Forward

While Apple may be one of the leading smartphone manufacturers globally, the company's smart speakers have fallen behind those of competing companies like Google and Amazon.

Both the Google Nest devices and Amazon's Echo series have seen tremendous success since their creation, something Apple has been chasing since the original HomePod.

Now that Apple has discontinued the original HomePod, the company's viability in the smart speaker industry is being tested even more as it pushes towards relying on the HomePod mini to pave the way.

Erika Rawes / Ach5

John says that moving to a more intuitive screen-based display could help Apple stay competitive against Google and Amazon devices in the same areas. 

Others feel that a new HomePod with a screen could be a perfect solution to the current problems that Apple's HomeKit software framework is facing.

"There certainly does seem to be space in Apple's product offerings for a better HomeKit hub solution. A HomePod with a screen could be a perfect place to monitor and control all the HomeKit-compatible accessories you had installed on your home network," Weston Happ, product development manager at Merchant Maverick, explained in an email.

Happ says the company could see more success against Amazon and Google if it chooses to incorporate all of its smart home components into one smart display.

Part of the problem, he says, is the focus on audio quality instead of functionality, something that ultimately hurt the HomePod in the end.

"Not bringing up an idea of your own and being creative with your device will be a drawback."

"HomePod offers a unique place in Apple's product lineup where it could fully incorporate the home network needs of its customers and possibly jump back in full-force to the ever-expanding home mesh-network solutions universe," Happ said.

Despite the fallbacks that Apple has experienced with the original HomePod, and its continued struggle to stand out against Echo and Nest devices, Happ says the company's history of transforming ideas into new and innovative designs is something to take to heart.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the company will succeed on its next try.

Ready for the Future

Two primary things need to be considered if Apple decides to push forward with a new HomePod that features a smart display: cost and functionality.

Smart displays are a nice piece of technology, but Dr. Joan Palmiter Bajorek, the CEO and founder of Women in Voice, says that consumers aren't quite ready for them yet.

"[Smart displays] are expensive," Bajorek told us on a call. "Who is buying these? What's the price point?" she asked.

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Bajorek says that consumers are still too focused on haptic feedback and the physical responses from pushing buttons on the smart devices they already own.

She also notes that voice technology isn't where it needs to be for these devices to reach a broad audience. 

"These users are still early adopters," she said. "What is the advantage to having the screen on something else if their iPhone can do it just as well?"