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Rumor: Apple working on cheaper HomePod for launch this year

A somewhat questionable report out of Taiwan on Wednesday says Apple is working on more affordable editions of stalwart product lines including iPhone, iPad and Mac, as well as a lower priced HomePod.

Citing industry sources, the Economic Daily News (via Mac Otakara) reports a cheaper version of HomePod is due to arrive in the second half of 2018. The lower priced smart speaker could sell for between $150 to $200, the report said.

Whether Apple intends to release all-new HomePod hardware, or simply reduce pricing of its current $349 speaker was not made clear in the Economic Daily report. Mac Otakara, without citing sources, speculates a "small size" version could launch later this year to challenge similarly priced products from market leader Amazon.

Reviews of HomePod, including AppleInsider's, tout the speaker's superior sound quality, but note a distinct lack of "smarts" when it comes to Siri. The virtual assistant is strictly limited to Apple's ecosystem of services, and is currently unable to handle seemingly simple tasks like creating Calendar entries and making phone calls.

For $349, some have called the smart speaker overpriced in comparison to its competition. Amazon and Google brought their respective Alexa and Google Assistant technologies into the home at much lower price points, potentially prompting Apple to do the same.

In addition to HomePod, the report rehashes well-trod predictions of a 6.1-inch iPhone first aired by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last year. Previous rumors placed pricing for the LCD iPhone variant with TrueDepth sensor array at between $700 and $800, but today's report pegs retail cost at $650 to $750.

The Taiwanese publication goes on to cite a recent note from WitsView VP of Research Qiu Yubin, who estimates pricing of a rumored low-end MacBook Air model, again recently predicted by Kuo, to fall between $799 and $899.

Finally, without citing sources, the report claims Apple is looking to market a cheaper 9.7-inch iPad model set to cost $259, some $70 cheaper than the company's current entry level offering.