Does Apple need an Amazon Echo/Google Home competitor?

The smart-home is a forever growing aspects of our digital lives.

Amazon was the first to enter the space of an at-home virtual assistant with the Amazon Echo and Google last week introduced at Google I/O there competitor (and acknowledging Amazon for their efforts) called Google Home.

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Google Home introduced at Google I/O in May 2016.

These device can be smart in regards to telling you your daily schedule, turn on TV with content, general facts, turn other smart devices on/off or with certain settings such as a Nest thermostat etc.

Apple doesn’t have anything in this space, so it begs the question:

Does Apple need a Google Home/Amazon Echo competitor?

There have been rumours of this circulating in the past couple of days, which you can read about here.

The most obvious answer to the question would be that being the business Apple is, they need to get one out ASAP.

I think the most important thing to think about, is what advantage would Apple have if they brought out one and how would they do it?

Siri:

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This device would obviously be powered by Siri, which is now expected to get a major upgrade at WWDC in a couple of weeks with the release of an SDK so developers can integrate their own services into Siri.

Apple has partnerships at the moment with Facebook and Twitter for example to make a post on either social network, but this SDK would open it up even more.

You would then for example, be able to ask questions like:

  • I’m going to bed. (To make sure garage-door is closed, front door is locked and air-conditioning is set or off)?
  • What time is your favourite TV show or movie on TV?
  • Book an Uber to pick me up from here at a set time.
  • Send a message to a contact via WeChat or any other messaging service like Facebook Messenger.
  • How many downloads did I have yesterday from iTunes Connect?
  • What is the weather like tomorrow according to a different weather service?
  • Are there any new podcasts from your favourite podcaster?
  • What are the news headlines?
  • Set my alarm for a time of day with the tone being a specific song in a specific alarm clock app?
  • What is the current sports scores for your favourite sports?
  • Use Google Maps to give you directions to your destination?

That is just to name a few, but the possibilities would be endless depending on how sophisticated the SDK is for developers.

“Hey Siri” Issues:

Another issue that is going to start happening with more users as they upgrade their hardware and software is the “Hey Siri” function.

At the moment, the iPhone 6s/Plus, iPad Pros and Apple Watch all support Hey Siri. The next update to the Mac Operating System (currently called OS X) is also likely going to get this feature at WWDC.

This is going to cause a much bigger issue for when you say “Hey Siri”, it would set off your phone, tablet, watch, and computer and this would be a nightmare to control.

Apple could easily address this with new software of having either:

  • Customizable names for each (e.g. Hey Jarvis for Apple’s Amazon Echo competitor only to make you feel more like Iron Man).
  • Say device name in command (e.g. Hey iPhone Siri, Hey Mac Siri, Hey Watch Siri etc.)

If Apple does not address this issue, people are going to be turned off from using the feature at all, and would detract users from using it.

Ecosystem:

With iOS 10, Apple is expected to include a dedicated HomeKit app for setting up and managing devices, which is expanded from using Siri in iOS 9.

You could have this Amazon Echo competitor do things like control operations on your other devices, such as bring up a TV show on my Apple TV via Netflix.

It also has potential of being incredibly useful for users on the Apple Music streaming service to play a song or playlist that they have.

Another advantage could be (if given permission) send phone calls to the speaker if you are in the room using the speaker to play music etc., if your phone is charging in another room.

Existing Devices:

The big question to ask is if you could already do all of these functions this Amazon Echo competitor can do, on an existing device?

The advantage of a device like the Amazon Echo is that it’s in a fixed location so you could walk into a room without your phone and use it.

The Apple TV could be a gateway to this setup, being an Apple TV having a built in “Hey Siri” function without requiring a Siri Remote.

If Apple is seriously entering this space, there is any combination (if not all 3) of the following potential solutions when it comes to hardware:

  • Apple TV 5G: Integrate “Hey Siri” into an Apple TV 5G which is already connected to your TV and Wi-Fi network for functionality etc.
  • Add-On Device: Like the Amazon Echo Dot. This would be a small portable device that has a microphone to hear what you say and connect to your Wi-Fi network etc. that you would connect to an existing set of speakers to get the audio feedback.
  • Device with Speaker: This would be the true, all in one Amazon Echo competitor.
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Apple TV 4th Generation with Siri Remote.

Cost:

And finally, it all comes down to cost.

For Amazon’s products:

  • Amazon Echo costs US$180, which has a built-in speaker.
  • Amazon Tap costs US$129, with built-in battery for portability.
  • Amazon Echo Dot US$90, which connects to a separate speaker.

Google’s yet to announce pricing for Google Home.

The Apple TV 4G currently costs US$149 for 32GB and US$199 for 64GB.

If an updated Apple TV were to come out with “Hey Siri” built in (as the only major change), I would expect it to cost US$50~ more than the current models.

The add-on device like the Amazon Echo Dot would likely cost US$99~ and the device with the built-in speaker would cost US$149~.

I am also willing to make a prediction that if Apple does bring out long-distance wireless charging they could very well have this functionality built into these devices, even if it is not until the 2nd or 3rd generation of each, and would likely make them about US$100~ more expensive each.

~These are all guesses based on what Apple prices their products at and considering existing line-up of products and competitors.

So do you want to see Apple release a product for this space? Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @neil_apps.

 

 

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