A New ‘HomePod Pro’ with a Seven-Inch Display Could Arrive Early Next Year
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Most analysts agree that Apple’s living room strategy is somewhat inscrutable. This makes it difficult to predict what the company will come up with next in this area. It’s a stark contrast to Apple’s iPhone lineup, where you can almost mark every new product release on your calendar.
Still, there’s every indication Apple continues to plod along with new products for the home, and while recent Apple TV and HomePod releases have been somewhat uninspired, the good news is that Apple’s long-rumoured “HomePod Pro” is still on the horizon — and we could see it as early as next year.
Apple has supposedly been working on a HomePod/iPad hybrid device for a couple of years now. At least, that’s how long we’ve been hearing about it. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman first hinted at a more advanced and powerful HomePod in the spring of 2021, although he was also quick to note the product was only in “early development.”
Gurman’s report came at a time when rumours of Apple’s living room plans were all over the place, with predictions of an Apple TV with a FaceTime camera, an iPad with a HomePod speaker built-in, and even a giant iPad for the home to serve as a competitor to Amazon’s Echo Show.
It wasn’t clear what direction Apple was going in, and we’re not convinced even Apple knew for sure. There’s little doubt the company was exploring all these options in its skunkworks and possibly even building some basic prototypes. Still, we haven’t heard much about any actual development of these ideas.
Instead, we ended up with a second-generation HomePod earlier this year that was little more than a spec upgrade to the one Apple abruptly discontinued two years earlier.
There had also been ample rumours of that speaker arriving, although most predicted it would come sooner, and it had been mostly forgotten by the time it showed up in January.
The Curious Case of the Full-Sized HomePod
The entire saga of the full-sized HomePod has been an odd one. Not only did its cancellation seemingly come out of nowhere, but only three months later, Apple released the 2021 Apple TV 4K with some great new features exclusive to the discontinued HomePod. It even had a picture of the HomePod on the back of the box. Further, Apple had introduced a new Home Theatre Audio feature for the HomePod only four months before it was discontinued.
As a result, a pair of HomePods became one of the best surround sound systems you could add to an Apple TV, and a lot of folks snatched up as many HomePods as they could before they disappeared entirely — and it remained in high demand even a year later.
Some folks believed this was exactly what Apple was hoping for; that discontinuing the HomePod would create an artificial scarcity and allow the company to clear out its warehouses without taking a considerable loss. Whether that was Apple’s intention or not, it definitely worked, clearing the stage for the full-sized speaker to reappear as a second-generation model.
The ‘HomePod Pro’
Fortunately, that’s not the entirety of Apple’s plans for its smart speaker, and it’s important not to mistake the newest HomePod as a misreading of what’s going on inside Apple.
Now, reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has weighed in to indicate that not only is this new HomePod still in development, but it’s likely to be unveiled in the first half of 2024.
We’ve known for a while that Apple is working on multiple HomePod devices, including the latest successor to the original HomePod. However, about a year ago, we also heard that it had begun development on a new HomePod with a full-sized display — the same device that Gurman said was in its early stages the year before.
As usual, Kuo’s information comes from the supply chain, where he’s discovered that Apple has added a new supplier, Tianma, to the mix exclusively to provide displays for this new HomePod. Since HomePods have never had displays before, it’s a solid lead that something big is going on. It’s apparently also going to be a proving ground for Tianma, which could end up supplying iPad panels if things go well with the HomePod.
Kuo doesn’t offer much insight into what this HomePod will look like or what its capabilities will be. Still, it’s a safe assumption that Apple is going for a home hub here — something that’s been conspicuously missing from its HomeKit ecosystem.
Kuo does indicate it will mark “a significant shift in the company’s smart home strategy,” which echoes Gurman’s comments two years ago that this product “would represent Apple’s most ambitious smart-home hardware offering to date.”
Of course, that’s not setting a particularly high bar. While there’s much to like about Apple’s HomeKit technology, most of that magic is in the software. By comparison, Apple’s hardware innovations are pretty underwhelming. The latest HomePod offers a faster processor, temperature and humidity sensors, and integrated Matter support, but those are also things the HomePod mini already had. Apple also released a new Apple TV 4K last year, but the only significant additions were more storage, a faster processor, and HDR10+ support.
That doesn’t mean the latest Apple TV 4K and HomePod aren’t great pieces of technology, but they’re incremental upgrades to what’s come before — evolutionary rather than revolutionary. A new “HomePod Pro” — or whatever it’s ultimately called — may move Apple’s home ambitions ahead in a pretty big way, especially if it inspires the company to continue along that road in building a more comprehensive Apple-powered home ecosystem that goes beyond its computers and mobile devices.
[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.]