Prolific Apple leaker and senior analyst at KGI Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo claims Apple is considering a lower-cost version of HomePod following poor sales.

For Amazon and Google, this has meant releasing a 'mini' version of their standard smart speakers, though it could just as easily be a full-sized model with less impressive audio hardware. Either way, it would come in cheaper than the £319/US$349 Apple currently requests for its HomePod.

This theory is backed up by rumours of a Beats-branded HomePod costing just $199, which have come via the supply chain. Apple is reportedly in talks with MediaTek over such a device.

When is the HomePod Mini release date?

The HomePod was announced in June 2017 at WWDC, and went on sale in February 2018. However, we heard nothing about the new HomePod at WWDC 2018 on 4 June.

A report in China's Economic Daily News suggests Apple will announce the new HomePod in the latter half of 2018, so that could tie in with the September event usually reserved for the new iPhone. 

How much will the HomePod Mini cost?

The EDN report also points to a probable price point of between $150- and $200, and in typical Apple fashion we would expect that to translate to between £150 and £200. This is confirmed by later reports of a Beats-branded speaker, which focus on a $199 price point.

Such a price would make it competitive with the £89.99 Amazon Echo and £129 Google Home, especially if Apple can cut costs without significantly reducing audio quality.

HomePod Mini new feature rumours

  • Smaller design
  • Smarter AI
  • Support for more languages
  • Face ID and voice recognition
  • Beats branding

It's not just the HomePod's extravagant price that Kuo points to in his assessment of the poor sales. While it's a very good speaker, the HomePod is not the best smart speaker, and Siri, Apple's voice assistant, is way behind its competitors in terms of AI skills. This is something we'd expect to change in a newer model.

"It's been six years since Apple introduced Siri to the market, which was way ahead of the firm's major competitors. The massive population of iOS and macOS users is also conducive to the promotion of the voice assistant function. However, we note that for most users worldwide, Siri is not a must-have function, and Apple has not yet become a leading brand in the AI voice assistant market.

"We also note that HomePod has not added support for new languages in the device since launch, suggesting Apple is facing challenges in AI/voice assistant development spanning the globe; this will cap the shipments momentum of HomePod," said Kuo.

Another rumoured feature, the addition of Face ID, seems an odd thought at first. However, the HomePod is often criticised for its inability to differentiate between multiple users. By adding Face ID, this would be possible not only through voice but facial recognition.

David Ho, president at Inventec Appliances (the company that builds the HomePod for Apple), said: "Engineers are designing smart speakers that will not only come with voice recognition but also incorporate features such as facial and image recognition. Such AI-related features are set to make people's lives more convenient and to make the product easier to use."