Huawei just unveiled a smart speaker that looks a lot like Google Home – but with one key difference

Huawei’s AI Cube (left) vs Google Home (right). The Cube is part of a new wave of devices dubbed Alexa routers, a nod to their key features: a speaker, a wifi router, and an Alexa voice assistant.
Huawei/Google Home Facebook

Experts are already criticising the design of Huawei’s new smart speaker, the AI Cube, for veering too close for comfort to Google Home’s.

But the Chinese manufacturer’s first offering in the burgeoning smart speaker market has a major leg up over its Google – and even Echo – counterparts: it also acts as a wifi router.

Ironically, the AI Cube is not a cube. It’s cylindrical, and promises what most smart speakers on the market do: it plays really high quality, tech-enhanced music, allows voice search, and can control home devices like smart TVs. It can even hear voice commands from a distance, the company said in a release.

But more importantly, by inserting a SIM card into the AI Cube, it also acts as a 4G wifi router, with a download speed of 300 MB per second.

Currently, there’re two similar products in the market: the Asus Voice, launched in January this year, and the Orbi Voice, whose Alexa router debuted just a day before the AI Cube at IFA Berlin last weekend. All three speakers have Alexa built in.

Google announced last year that the new generation of Google Home will also have an in-built router, but with news of the AI Cube, it looks like the company’s been beaten to the punch again by Huawei, much like in the race to get 7nm phone chips to market.

Furthermore, Google and Amazon’s “fierce” battle to maximise the “power of an ecosystem lock-in” (with Google Assistant and Alexa, respectively,) could mean Amazon’s partnership with Huawei puts it ahead in the race to secure users from China, which is among the top APAC countries where people are starting to use voice tech.

The Huawei AI Cube will launch first in Europe at the end of this year.