The HomePod (2018)
If there’s one area where Apple clearly didn’t learn a lesson from its past, it was with the original HomePod, which made many of the same mistakes that plagued the iPod Hi-Fi.
Announced at WWDC 2017 and released in early 2018, the HomePod was an expensive smart speaker with a very impressive set of features that most people didn’t really want, need, or care about.
Rather than following the iPhone playbook and creating a product that appealed to the masses, Apple went in the opposite direction with the HomePod, creating a speaker for hardcore Apple fans who also happened to be audiophiles. It turns out that’s a very tiny Venn diagram intersection.
To be fair, the HomePod was an incredible feat of engineering, but it addressed a set of needs that most people didn’t have. It was too expensive to be merely a smart speaker, and too limited to really be embraced as a premium speaker for audio enthusiasts.
Basically, you had to be completely immersed in the Apple ecosystem to even consider getting a HomePod. Unlike every other speaker in its price range, the HomePod didn’t work with Bluetooth, nor did it even feature a wired audio input. The only way to get music out of it was to either call up Apple Music with Siri or use AirPlay from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
It appears that Apple finally realized this last fall, giving up on the “great sound” part of the equation and releasing the $99 HomePod mini to function primarily as a smart speaker instead. By all reports, these have been selling like hotcakes, as they still provide good sound for the price, and they’re cheap enough to be an impulse buy for many iPhone users rather than a budgeted purchase.
Apple discontinued the full-sized HomePod earlier this year, perhaps ironically, just before it added new features to the 2021 Apple TV 4K that made the smart speaker considerably more useful. While there are reports that another premium HomePod is in the works, we’re not sure Apple has decided what form that’s going to take yet.