The Huawei AI Cube is not a cube. I just really want us to get that fact agreed upon before we proceed any further. It is, however, a rather unique device, combining a 4G modem, a home Wi-Fi router, a high-end 360-degree wireless speaker, and a Huawei-Amazon collaboration that promises Alexa integration and some not-yet-articulated AI capabilities.
Shaped like an elongated Google Home with a flat top, the Huawei AI Cube is an effort to get Huawei in on the flourishing smart speaker business. As of today, there are probably more consumer electronics brands with a smart speaker in their portfolio — Apple’s HomePod, the Google Home family of devices, Amazon’s Echo speakers, Lenovo’s Smart Display, and most recently, Samsung’s Bixby speaker — than without. Huawei’s angle is to leverage its tech lead in networking equipment by also endowing its AI Cube with a slot for an LTE SIM card, making it a 4G hot spot, and an Ethernet port, allowing you to use it as a home Wi-Fi router as well as an Alexa-enabled speaker.
Try as I might during the IFA briefing that Huawei gave, I couldn’t extract any details from the company about how exactly its AI speaker differs from any other with Alexa skills on board. Price was also a matter that Huawei wasn’t yet ready to discuss, saying it’ll be announced closer to the time that the device goes on sale. Europe will get the AI Cube “in the Christmas season,” the US may or may not get it, and Huawei has no plans for this exact model in its native China. At home, Huawei is most likely to offer a homegrown voice assistant in the place of Alexa.
As far as specs and measurements go, the AI Cube is 218mm (8.6 inches) tall and has a 116mm (4.57 inches) diameter at both its base and its top. The speaker weighs in at 900g (2lb). It supports LTE Cat.6 for cellular speeds up to 300Mbps, and it has 802.11ac with dual-band Wi-Fi. You get four microphones with far-field voice recognition.
I didn’t get to hear any meaningful sound demos of the AI Cube here at IFA, so all we’ve got to go on for sound quality is Huawei’s promise of this being a “groundbreaking device” with “a powerful sound system.” So yes, Huawei is leaving a lot of questions unanswered with its Europe-bound AI speaker. All I can say for sure is that it’s not a cube.