It's no secret that Apple's HomePod is lagging the rest of the smart-speaker crowd, and that's at least in part because of its high price. Now, rumors are circulating about a cheaper model -- $200 versus the current $350 -- that would be marketed under the Beats brand, according to Chinese site Sina (Google Translate).
We've been hearing about a possible cheaper "HomePod Mini" for a little while now, but the Beats branding is new. Marketing it under Beats would certainly give Apple more latitude with the design, especially colors and textures, since Apple-labeled products are a homogeneous-looking lot. The only bright color in the line is when it produces a Product Red iPhone.
It would also allow Apple to use cheaper components in a less audiophile-oriented speaker. Mediatek, the company it's supposedly partnering with, is one of the companies Amazon sources its parts from for the Echo line. And Beats would allow a less high-end look and feel without diluting Apple's "premium" je ne sais quoi.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.