Apple has given a pretty sizeable clue about some of the products it’s expected to announce alongside new iPhones at an event next week.
A smaller version of the company’s Siri-powered smart speaker has been rumoured for a while, but this week Apple made a decision that seems to confirm it’s coming soon.
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The computing giant, recently valued at more than $US2 trillion ($A2.8 trillion), has stopped selling speakers and headphones from competitors such as Sonos and Bose via its retail channels, according to Bloomberg, which reported that the products quietly disappeared from the online store at the end of last month.
It’s an interesting move to make when your company is at the centre of antitrust investigations about how it uses its size and control over some marketplaces, but it seems to have confirmed a couple rumoured products.
A new and possibly smaller HomePod speaker could be revealed at the event, along with the rumoured AirPods Studio headphones.
The HomePod is similar to one of Google’s recently announced Nest Audio speakers or Amazon’s Echo Studio speakers, which are powered by the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa digital voice assistants respectively.
The current version of the HomePod costs $469, much more expensive than the Nest Audio ($149) or Echo Studio ($329).
Apple has never revealed how many HomePod speakers it’s sold (the numbers are reported under the wearables, home and accessories category, allowing them to hide in the shadows of high-performers like the AirPods range and Watch devices), but it’s believed the sales numbers are between “very few” and “not many”.
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In addition to being far more expensive than rival products, it doesn’t do as much either, but more features are being steadily added via software updates.
Earlier this year the company reportedly started letting employees buy 10 of the things at a 50 per cent discount, up from a former limit of two, which some have suggested was a bid to clear stock to make way for a new speaker.
A smaller, cheaper HomePod Mini has been predicted as a potential way to boost sales, however one leaker has poured cold water on the idea of a new version of the existing HomePod.
The Cupertino company already owns the popular headphone brand Beats, but is rumoured to be launching a pair of Apple branded headphones at the upcoming event too.
The AirPods Studio are rumoured to be a high-end pair of over-ear headphones featuring active noise cancellation, the ambience-amplifying transparency mode the AirPods Pro have, and similar equaliser capabilities as well.
Given Apple’s recent focus on fitness and exercise, it’s also been suggested there will be two versions of the headphone, with one pair featuring lighter, more breathable materials.
It’s been suggested they might cost around the same as the Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones, which retail in Australia for $450.
The main focus of next Wednesday’s “Hi, Speed” event is still expected to be on new iPhone models, packing faster processors and 5G connectivity.
We might also see the first of the ARM-based Mac computers make its debut.
The event will be streamed online starting at 4am (AEDT) next Wednesday, and we’ll have all the news on the announcements then too.