Toggle Dark Mode
Apple’s HomePod is one of those products that’s often left us scratching our heads as to exactly what the company is up to. Despite frequent rumors about powerful new HomePod models on the horizon over the past few years, what we keep seeing out of Cupertino is far more pedestrian — and often downright perplexing.
The original HomePod came along in early 2018 and remained Apple’s sole foray into the smart speaker market for over two years. In that time, we saw lots of crazy speculation on what a “HomePod 2” could look like; instead, what we got was the smaller HomePod mini in late 2020, followed by the discontinuation of the full-sized HomePod six months later.
That move seemingly came out of nowhere, leading some to believe Apple was giving up on the premium smart speaker market. It was also very sudden, considering that the 2021 Apple TV 4K came along three months later with exclusive features for the speaker that Apple had just discontinued.
Apple rectified this with a new full-sized HomePod earlier this year — a follow-up that was almost indistinguishable visually from the original and far from the more exotic versions that leakers had been predicting.
Nevertheless, as uninspired as the second-generation HomePod was, it shouldn’t be taken to mean that Apple isn’t working on something more exciting. At most, the new HomePod was released to tide us over, and rumors persist that we’ll eventually see a “HomePod Pro” — or at least a HomePod with a screen.
Concept artists have had a lot of fun with that notion, creating mockups of a device that looks much more like a Google Nest, Amazon Alexa, or just a HomePod with an iPad attached. However, a new set of leaked images suggests that the new “HomePod-with-a-screen” may look remarkably similar to the HomePod we’ve already come to know and love.
Apple collector Kosutami recently came across some components from an unreleased HomePod that show a glass LCD touchscreen on top where the status LED would normally be.
While Kosutami believes this is a recent prototype, as they’re similar in construction to the second-generation HomePod, they assumed it could be a model that Apple tried and abandoned, choosing to stick with the older design instead.
However, the folks at 9to5Mac have independently confirmed with their sources that this is not an abandoned idea but actually an “advanced-stage prototype” that has an internal codename of B720 and is being “actively worked on by Apple.”
There’s still no guarantee that Apple plans to release this as an actual product, but if so, it may be just around the corner since the development appears to be quite far along. It’s unclear how old the photos in question are, but assuming they’re recent — and that Apple decides to move ahead — early next year seems like a reasonable timeframe for the design to move through the necessary engineering validation test (EVT) phases and enter mass production.
This would line up with the timeline that analyst Ming-Chi Kuo shared earlier this year when he discovered that Apple had contracted with a new supplier who would provide displays specifically for a HomePod. While Kuo predictions have often been speculative in recent months, this one seemed to have some teeth; since HomePods have never had displays in the past, a new display supplier for the HomePod was significant news.
As to what the display would be used for, 9to5Mac has learned that Apple has been modifying some of its tvOS apps to work on different display formats, specifically Apple Music and Apple Podcasts, which is unusual since the Apple TV doesn’t typically need to work with anything more than standard television sets. However, the HomePod also runs tvOS under the hood.
Nevertheless, the display may not show much more than notifications and animations, with sources saying that the HomePod display is designed to “show a blurred animation based on the colors of the album art when a song or podcast is playing.” This doesn’t seem intended to be the more sophisticated Echo-like Home Hub many have hoped for.
Based on the rumors we’ve heard over the years and the way Apple rolls, there’s reason to believe that the company may have planned to have this LCD-equipped HomePod ready for release much sooner but decided to create and release the more basic second-generation HomePod when plans for the more sophisticated one fell behind. After all, Apple runs lean and mean when it comes to product engineering teams, and it’s clearly had much bigger fish to fry over the past couple of years; it’s not uncommon for the company to shift personnel away from lower-priority projects — which the HomePod would undoubtedly qualify as.
[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.]