Apple’s first HomePod speaker isn’t even out yet, but there are already rumors coming out of the supply chain about its next-generation successors.
Inventec Appliances, the manufacturer that produces Apple’s HomePod, as well as its AirPods wireless earbuds, is looking toward the future of smart speaker trends. Inventec’s president, David Ho, said that smart speaker companies are already looking to “incorporate features such as facial and image recognition,” Nikkei reported on Saturday.
While Inventec Appliances produces smart speaker products for companies like Sonos, market analysts believe that it is Apple that Ho is referring to — and specifically “the next generation of Apple’s HomePod.” Jeff Pu, an analyst for Yuanta Investment Consulting, said that Apple could roll out a HomePod with 3D-sensing cameras (necessary for Face ID) by 2019.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about a camera-equipped HomePod. In May of last year, CNET reported that Apple’s then-rumored Echo competitor could sport facial recognition technology. Of course, when WWDC ’17 came around, Face ID was nowhere to be found.
Still, that doesn’t mean that future HomePod won’t have facial recognition technology. Apple is rumored to expand the number of products that use Face ID next year, including its 2018 iPad Pro devices, as well as across the entire 2018 iPhone lineup. On the HomePod, Face ID could enable clever features like automatic user profile switching based on who is currently in the room.
The Taiwanese-based Inventec Appliances is currently the sole supplier of Apple’s HomePod device this year. According to analysts, Inventec will ship a fairly low amount of HomePod devices this holiday season — about 50,000 units by year’s end, according to Arthur Liao of Taipei-based Fubon Securities.
That production will pick up next year, but analysts are still on the fence about how the demand for the product will play out. “According to supply-chain checking, Apple is set to make 4 million units of HomePod in 2018, but we are currently about conservative about whether the demand who’ll be that good,” Liao added.