10 Ways an Apple Smart Home Hub Could Compete With Amazon Echo

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10 Ways an Apple Smart Home Hub Could Compete With Amazon Echo

The smart-home hub market has been heating up of late with talk of updates to the Amazon Echo as well as a possible Apple competitor that could be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, an Apple device would be powered by Siri and come with a price that could easily exceed the Amazon Echo's $180 price tag. It's rumored to have booming sound and possibly a touch screen to differentiate it from an Echo or Google Home. Apple, of course, hasn't commented on its plans. This slide show discusses what an Apple competitor to the Echo and Home should offer to be successful.

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Siri, but With Improvements

Apple's Amazon Echo competitor surely will come with the company's virtual personal assistant Siri built-in. But Siri isn't as capable as Samsung's Bixby, and many users say it's not as intelligent or capable as Amazon's Alexa. Apple must improve Siri if it wants to deliver a better product than Amazon Echo.

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A Big Touch Screen Would Be Nice

According to several reports, a touch screen could be part of Apple's Echo competitor. That would be a good move. Screens add another level of usability folks won't find in the Echo and Google Home. Plus, Amazon is reportedly considering adding a touch screen to the Echo, so Apple will need to keep pace.

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Don't Underestimate the Value of Design

When it comes to a smart-home hub, design is important. Apple needs to think seriously about whether the device is attractive and users will want it on their kitchen counters or in their living rooms. If the Siri-based smart home hub is ugly, it will fail.

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Lots and Lots of Third-Party App Support

Amazon's Echo has been successful because so many different companies support the platform. Apple must keep sight of that. For Apple's smart home hub to be a real player in the marketplace, it needs to launch with a large selection of third-party apps, including some big options such as Uber or Nest.

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Full-On First-Party App Support, Too

There's a good chance that Apple's smart-home hub will come with Apple Music support, but Apple can't stop there. Support for Mail and even Safari would be helpful, as would Apple Maps and iWork integration. The more first-party apps the device supports, the better.

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Processing Power Is Critical

According to KGI Securities' Kuo, Apple's smart-home hub will come with the same processing power as last year's iPhone 6s. That should suffice for most uses. Still, Apple should remember that the faster the device responds to queries, the more appealing it will be to a broader set of customers.

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Remember Audio Fundamentals

Audio quality stands at the center of the smart-home hub experience. Apple must deliver the very best audio components it can in the device. That means an outstanding, omnidirectional microphone and high-end tweeters and sub-woofers for audio playback. Beats most likely has this area covered.

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Integration Across Apple's Devices

Apple's smart-home hub will, of course, be controlled by voice, but Apple should ensure it can be controlled through all of its other hardware products as well. If a user wants to issue a voice command to the device from half a world away, they should be able to do so. Ditto with accessing information collected by the device.

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Cross-Platform Smart Home Control

Apple's smart-home hub undoubtedly will support HomeKit, allowing it to work with compatible devices, but it shouldn't be a closed-off system. Users should also be able to use the hub to work with Samsung's SmartThings, WeMo and other smart-home solutions. Apple needs to accept that users want support for all kinds of platforms.

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A Reasonable Price, Please

According to Kuo, Apple's smart-home hub will be more expensive than the $180 Amazon Echo. But exactly how much more expensive is unknown. Regardless, Apple can't push pricing too much higher than $200. It can't allow its luxury pricing to get out of hand and price itself out of the market.

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