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Apple could unveil a new HomePod as soon as this fall, but it might not be as exciting of a product as some have been hoping for.
It’s been hard to figure out exactly what Apple is up to with its HomePod family over the past few years. The original HomePod was a relatively expensive, niche product. It offered impressive sound for its price, thanks to the intelligent audio processing features that Apple had built into it, but never really gained much of a foothold among anybody but the most enthusiastic Apple fans due to its high price tag and limited compatibility.
Apple corrected course in 2020 with the HomePod mini, an affordable speaker that still offered good sound and definitely held its own in the more traditional smart speaker market. The success of the smaller and more affordable HomePod mini seemed to prove that Apple had been aiming too high with its larger predecessor.
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Then, only months after the HomePod mini showed up, Apple surprised everyone by quietly discontinuing the original HomePod, saying it planned to focus its efforts on the HomePod mini instead. It was such a sudden move that even some teams within Apple likely didn’t know it was coming; the 2021 Apple TV 4K was released two months later with features that worked exclusively with the HomePod. It even had a picture of the full-sized HomePod on the back of the box.
Since then, we’ve heard myriad reports about Apple working on HomePods with full-sized displays, an “iMac-like” HomePod Max, and even a HomePod-Apple TV hybrid. However, the only thing that’s come out of Apple in the HomePod family is new colors for the 2020 HomePod mini.
Although we don’t doubt that Apple is still tossing around ideas internally, it’s likely the company hasn’t come up with the right answer. After all, we’re hearing too many different things for all of them to be on Apple’s near-term roadmap.
That doesn’t mean Apple isn’t working on a new HomePod, and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo confirms that we’ll likely see something by early next year. However, if Kuo’s information is correct, don’t expect any major innovations.
It’s not entirely clear what Kuo is referring to by “a new version of HomePod,” but it’s not going to be a Nest-like Home Hub or have an Apple TV built-in. If those come at all, they’re likely farther away. As Kuo suggests, Apple still hasn’t quite figured this market out.
Instead, it sounds like this will be either an update to the HomePod mini or an attempt at a sequel to the larger HomePod. Despite not having “much innovation in hardware design,” it’s fair to say it will be more than just new colors.
A sequel to the HomePod mini wouldn’t be out of the question, although it’s hard to imagine what Apple could add to make it more compelling.
On the other hand, if Apple can pull it off, there’s room for a more affordable version of the original HomePod. Original HomePod models are selling at a premium on the secondary market these days, which isn’t surprising considering that they offer a superior stereo sound experience and provide Dolby Atmos Surround Sound when paired with an Apple TV 4K.
Apple added the ability to pair dual HomePod mini speakers with an Apple TV in tvOS 15 last fall, but these still can’t access the much richer Home Theatre Mode of the original HomePod. Yet, Apple introduced that Home Theatre Mode in tvOS 14 only months before it pulled the HomePod off the market, and then subsequently released a new Apple TV 4K that extended that to even offering eARC support to let you use your HomePods as surround speakers for other HDMI-connected devices, like a PS5 or Xbox.
Yet, these are features that new Apple TV owners can’t access without tracking down a pair of used HomePods. It’s a rather odd gap in the Apple ecosystem. The only way Apple can fill it is to introduce a new HomePod that offers the spatial audio features of the original.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]