Leaked Component Photo Points to LCD-Equipped HomePod

HomePod Credit: Howard Bouchevereau / Unsplash
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As one of Apple’s “B-list” products, we don’t often hear nearly as many rumors about the HomePod as we do about more exciting things like new iPhones and iPads. However, there’s been a persistent thread of reports over the past few years that Apple is exploring several new HomePod designs, many of which are expected to add screens to the smart speaker.

While there’s been plenty of speculation on what this could look like, sporadic reports over the past few months have suggested that Apple’s first attempt at adding a screen to the HomePod might be much simpler than many expect.

Instead of going with a wholesale redesign or strapping an iPad onto the HomePod, Apple might simply choose to release a third-generation HomePod with a nearly identical design that merely replaces the top panel with a full LCD screen.

News of this new HomePod, reportedly codenamed “B720,” surfaced in October when leaker and prototype collector Kosutami shared what they believed was an abandoned project. However, the folks at 9to5Mac confirmed with their sources that it was an “advanced-stage prototype” being “actively worked on by Apple.”

More recently, Kosutami shared a photo that purports to be a glossy cover for the display on the new HomePod.

The photo in question has no scale, but the circular design suggests it’s probably not the seven-inch display version that we’ve heard rumored elsewhere. That model is said to use something more akin to an iPad mini, and at that size, a rectangular display makes much more sense anyway.

According to code found in recent tvOS versions, the seven-inch-screened model is said to have an internal code name of Z314, which suggests it’s another HomePod-related product that Apple is working on separately. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted in March 2023 that this HomePod could arrive in early 2024, although the lack of more recent information on that front suggests his timeline may be off.

However, it’s also possible that Apple may be preparing to announce both the traditional B720 version and the more advanced Z314 “HomePod Pro” at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), as it has often used that event to showcase new home initiatives.

The HomePod Story So Far…

Since 2018, Apple has released three versions of its smart speaker, but the product group has often seemed a bit rudderless. The original full-size HomePod arrived in February 2018 and stood alone for over two years until the HomePod mini showed up in late 2020 to provide a lower-cost option.

For a brief time, it seemed like Apple’s product strategy would be a full-sized HomePod for serious listening (and Dolby Atmos Home Theatre Audio with the Apple TV) accompanied by a smaller version for more casual use in other areas around the home. It aligned with the Amazon Echo and Google Home speaker lineups, so it made sense, but then Apple shocked everyone by canceling the original HomePod entirely in early 2021.

The sudden move may have even caught some folks off-guard within Apple. Three months after the HomePod was discontinued, Apple released a new Apple TV 4K with features exclusive to the larger smart speaker — it even had a picture of a HomePod on the back of the box.

Granted, it may have been too late to pull those features, but in retrospect, it feels like either the decision to pull the HomePod off the market was either made very suddenly or nobody bothered to tell the Apple TV team that it was coming. Left hand, meet right hand.

Nevertheless, while Apple’s marketing spin was that it had axed the HomePod to focus on its more popular and affordable HomePod mini, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman shared details on Apple’s longer-term plans for the HomePod, suggesting that the smart speaker would eventually return as “Apple’s most ambitious smart-home hardware offering to date.”

That was three years ago, and while Gurman made it clear that we shouldn’t expect anything soon, the only thing we’ve gotten in the interim is the return of the full-sized HomePod in a second-generation model that was a relatively minor refresh to the one that Apple discontinued two years earlier. While that returned us to a two-tier HomePod family, it added little that was especially new or innovative on the HomePod front — unless you count a removable power cord.

Even the software updates have been relatively minor, with 2020’s HomePod Software 14 marking the last time any significant new features were added. Since then, updates have added some nice refinements to the experience, enabling the temperature and humidity sensors added to the HomePod mini and HomePod 2 and improving Siri and audio tuning.

Hence, it’s fair to say we’re due for something big on the HomePod front. While it may not be Apple’s biggest priority, it hasn’t abandoned the product category either, and there’s been enough noise that Apple is working on something that the only real question is when it’s coming.

[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.]

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