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Apple HomePod Heads to China, Beating Amazon and Google

Mark Gurman
Apple HomePod Heads to China, Beating Amazon and Google

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. on Wednesday said its HomePod wireless speaker will go on sale in China next year, potentially beating Amazon.com Inc. and Google to the world’s most-populous nation.

On its website in China, Apple added a banner that said the speaker will go on sale in "early 2019." The Hong Kong website announced a similar move. The speaker will cost HK $2,799 ($358), according to the website, roughly in line with pricing in the U.S. and other countries.

The HomePod originally launched in the U.S., Australia, and U.K. in February 2018, and expanded to Canada, France, and Germany in June. It also debuted in Mexico and Spain in October.

The launch in China is notable as this would make Apple the first major smart speaker maker from the U.S. to launch in China’s huge internet market. Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s Google don’t sell their popular smart speakers in China currently. Major local players, like Xiaomi Corp. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., dominate the Chinese market for the devices at the moment.

Apple has an advantage over Google and Amazon in the Chinese smart speaker market as the company’s Siri voice assistant supports Cantonese and Mandarin, while Google’s digital assistant and Amazon’s Alexa don’t. Apple also already has a slew of integrated services in China and Hong Kong, like iCloud, Maps and Apple Music. On the other hand, Google’s internet offerings in mainland China have long been limited.

So far, the HomePod hasn’t sold well compared with the company’s other accessories like the AirPods. But continued international expansion will likely improve its prospects. Loup Ventures estimates that Apple will sell about 20 million HomePods a year by 2025, compared with Google selling nearly 200 million units and Amazon shipping about 138 million units that year.

According to Canalys, China was the fastest growing smart speaker market in the second quarter of 2018, contributing to 52 percent of the category’s growth globally.

Apple also released on Wednesday a standalone version of its USB-C charging adapter for iPad Pros and a clear case for the iPhone XR.

(Updates with Mexico and Spain launch timing in third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Jacob Gu.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Gurman in San Francisco at mgurman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew Pollack

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