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 vs. the current $350 -- that would be marketed under the Beats brand, according to 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 a lot more latitude with the design, especially colors and textures, since Apple-labeled products are a homogeneous-looking lot, and the only bright color in the line is when it produces a Project 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.