People Don't Want 360-Degree Speakers, Google Official Says

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People don't want 360-degree speakers akin to Apple's HomePod, Google Home Max product manager Chris Chan said in a recent interview with Fast Company. Regardless of whether a (smart) speaker can relay audio in one or multiple directions, consumers are placing such products close to walls "in every single case," Google's research suggests. Following extensive surveys, the Alphabet-owned company concluded users don't want their speakers to be "this sort of centerpiece in their home that people kind of gather around like a fireplace," Mr. Chan said. The product manager also isn't impressed with the concept of 360-degree speakers from an audio quality perspective, referring to the fact that Apple's HomePod doesn't allow for true stereo sound.

Ultimately, Google's official still acknowledges that Apple's design approach has its advantages, most notably in regards to usually being able to deliver a consistent audio experience in every part of a room, though he remains skeptical about its ability to address what customers really want. While the HomePod released months after the Google Home Max, the two gadgets are now directly competing with each other in the high-end segment of the smart speaker market. Apple's solution starts at $349, whereas Google's most luxurious speaker to date will set you back in the ballpark of $399, depending on where you're located. Both are also infused with artificial intelligence assistants and can serve as smart home hubs.

Ultra-premium smart speakers are presently a niche category but won't remain an outliner for long, with recent reports suggesting the average price of a smart speaker is likely to go up going forward. The growing power demands of voice-enabled apps and recent digital privacy concerns raised following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal are likely to push the industry toward delivering more capable speakers that aren't as reliant on cloud computing as current solutions are, many industry watchers believe. The trend should also benefit the chipmaking industry, with the likes of Qualcomm being eager to sell more powerful and expensive chips to IoT device manufacturers.

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