Apple released iOS 11.4, the latest version of its mobile operating system, with some beefed-up features for its HomePod wireless smart speaker. The update allows users to create a stereo pair with two HomePods. It also supports multiroom streaming through AirPlay 2 connections. Music can be played in every room with a HomePod. It can be the same music in every room, or music can be tailored for each room. AirPlay can be controlled through iOS apps or the iOS Control Center, or through Apple’s digital assistant, Siri.
Despite the improvements in the HomePod experience in the latest version of iOS, Apple’s smart speaker has some major challenges in front of it. Because HomePod came late to the smart speaker party, its major competitors Amazon with its Echo, and Google with is Home already have penetrated the market deeply. What’s more, it’s trailing its rivals in the software department. Amazon and Google have been making continuous improvements to the contextual understanding and cognitive abilities of their digital assistants, she explained. As a result, customer satisfaction rates with the digital assistants of Amazon and Google, at 54 percent, is much higher than with Siri, at 44 percent.
Apple also has lagged in enlisting third-party support for Siri. However, Siri can control any speaker that supports AirPlay 2. Such speakers are expected soon from Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos. HomePod shipments, at 600,000 units in the first three months of the year, trail Amazon, which shipped 4 million units, and Google, which shipped 2.4 million. Still, Apple still raked in nearly a billion dollars in revenue from its smart speaker. Apple does have an advantage over its rivals in one area. It has a strong network of customers who are loyal to the brand.