Huawei has announced that its Sound X smart speaker is breaking out of China and coming to the West too. There’s only one problem: it won’t be smart.
Launched late last year in China, the Sound X is a partnership with French luxury audio company Devialet – best known for its fancy Phantom speakers – and comes equipped with 360-degree sound, dual 60W sub-woofers, and Huawei’s own voice assistant Xiaoyi.
Except Xiaoyi won’t be available on Sound X if you buy it in the UK or Europe. And neither will Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, or even bloody Bixby. This will be a smart speaker with no smarts.
It’s clear that Huawei understands that this omission might just be seen as a drawback, and Peter Gauden, Senior Manager of the company’s Global Product Marketing team, pointed out that it might be possible to add in smart assistant support after the launch using an over-the-air update.
That would presumably hinge on a change in Huawei’s circumstances when it comes to trade partnerships with US companies, which are currently outlawed by President Trump’s trade ban.
In the meantime the Sound X is strictly dumb, which will no doubt limit its appeal – though there’s a lot to like about it as a speaker alone.
It takes advantage of Devialet’s ‘push-push’ technology, which uses two 60W sub-woofers in opposing directions to amplify bass while cancelling out unwanted vibrations. The result is a speaker that can go louder and bassier than you’d expect from the size, with six tweeters encircling the device to deliver crisp trebles too.
Design-wise it owes a cue or two to Apple’s HomePod and the Google Home, with a cylindrical design and stain proof fabric covering the base.The circular control panel on the speakers top feels fairly familiar too, though the Sound X only comes in black, so Apple & Google win that round.
There are a few clever touches, like built-in NFC for one-touch pairing with any phone (not just a Huawei one, it worked fine on my Galaxy S10) and since it has microphones included – you know, for that voice assistant it doesn’t have – you can use it for phone calls too, if you felt like it for some reason?
You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for the Sound X. With Google Assistant or Alexa baked in this could have been a real challenger in the high-end smart speaker market, but with neither – nor even any Western partner features like Spotify Connect – it’s hard to imagine who would shell out for this when Apple, Amazon, and Google’s offerings are right there.
The Sound X wasn’t Huawei’s only announcement today. It also launched its second-generation foldable phone, the Mate Xs, along with a UK launch for the MatePad Pro 5G tablet and a refresh of its MateBook X Pro laptop.