Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: what are the differences?

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2
(Image credit: Future)

Almost five years after the original HomePod was released, Apple has finally lifted the lid on the HomePod 2 in a surprise announcement today. The first generation HomePod was met with critical favour but perhaps didn't take the market by storm as Apple had hoped, as it was discontinued in March of 2021 with no replacement lined up... until now.

The HomePod 2 launches on 3rd February, so while we don't have a review unit to compare side-by-side, there is plenty from Apple's extensive press release that hints as to how the new and old HomePods compare to one another. Expect to see updates to this page once we have the HomePod 2 in for testing and review, where we can fully compare both generations. 

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: Price

In a very un-Apple move, the new HomePod is actually cheaper than the original. The HomePod 2 costs £299 / $299 / AU$479, while the original retailed for £319 / $349 / AU$499. The savings aren't exactly life-changing, but it's a welcome change nonetheless. 

It is, however, a lot more expensive than the HomePod Mini, which retails for £99 / $99 / AU$149 - although both of these products offer different propositions. 

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: Design

Apple HomePod 2 in white and 'midnight'

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple hasn't reinvented the HomePod's design with this second-generation model, instead opting for subtle updates throughout. The backlit touch display now stretches edge to edge on the top surface of the cylindrical speaker, with the rest of the visible surface area of the device wrapped in fabric mesh material – which Apple has once again made from 100 per cent recycled materials. The design language is even carried through to the power cable, which is now a woven fabric style. 

The similar design to the original speaker is a nice touch if you plan to incorporate a mix of original HomePods and HomePod 2s into a multiroom setup, as they should look uniform. 

The HomePod 2 measures 6.6 inches tall, and 5.6 inches wide, and it weighs 2.3kg, making it every so slightly shorter and 200g lighter than the original. We suspect the weight difference is due to the new HomePod dropping two of its tweeters; more on that later.  

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: Features

Apple HomePod 2

(Image credit: Apple)

The HomePod 2 includes many of the same features found on the original model, including a control system built around Apple's voice-controlled assistant Siri. Much like Amazon's Echo speakers, you can prompt the assistant with a command phrase, here it's "hey Siri", and ask it to play music, answer questions, read the news and weather, control your smart home appliances and much more. While it's undoubtedly useful, we found the HomePod over-relied on voice controls in our initial review, so more touch controls or a dedicated HomePod app could be beneficial - however, there are no signs of such with this second generation.

Apple has highlighted the NFC handoff feature on the new HomePod, which was also available on the prior generation and Mini; this allows you to transfer music playback from your iPhone to your HomePod by just tapping the two devices together. The HomePod can now also transfer suggested playlists and podcasts to your iPhone when they are in close proximity too. You may notice that we specified the iPhone here, as Android users will be left out in the cold by the HomePod yet again. 

Much like the first generation HomePod, you'll need an Apple device to set up and control the HomePod 2 – so do not buy a HomePod unless you have an iPhone, iPad or MacBook on hand. 

As for other more positive features returning with the HomePod 2, Apple's excellent Spatial Audio system is here on the HomePod 2, with Apple claiming that you will receive impressive immersive audio with either a single HomePod, or two paired in a stereo configuration. On the topic of pairing HomePods together, you can still add a pair to an Apple TV 4K to output TV audio – love it or hate it the ecosystem is here to stay on the HomePod 2.

So what does the HomePod 2 do that the original can't? Well, this year it's all about Matter, a new wireless standard which creates harmonious union in your smart home. Other major tech companies like Google, Samsung, Philips and Amazon have all signed onto this shared standard, meaning your HomePod 2 will be able to slot into your smart home set-up with little to no fuss. 

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: Sound

Apple HomePod 2

(Image credit: Apple)

While the outside of the HomePod hasn't changed much, Apple has totally redesigned the inside of the HomePod 2, which may hint at a change in audio performance. 

As mentioned previously, Apple has actually ditched two of the tweeters in this new model, meaning The HomePod 2 now pairs the five-tweeter set-up with a four-inch woofer and five microphones which are used for everything from receiving voice commands to automatically adapting the sound based on whether you place the HomePod in a corner or in a more central position. 

Despite Apple dropping two of the tweeters, the company claims that the new HomePod is a breakthrough in audio performance, hinting that the new generation could be a fairly significant upgrade in the audio department. 

The original HomePod was no slouch, earning five stars in its review thanks to its weighty and authoritative sound, although we felt that the mid-range could be better defined at times. We're eager to hear the HomePod 2 for ourselves to see if it can surpass the impressive performance its predecessor provided.

There's only one catch that we've seen so far, the lack of any reference to hi-res audio. Apple Music features hi-res lossless support, which Apple likes to brag about, so its absence in this initial HomePod reveal is somewhat disappointing.

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: Early verdict

Apple HomePod 2

(Image credit: Apple)

This is a particularly easy conclusion to come to; if you want a full-sized HomePod, get the HomePod 2. It's cheaper, smarter and has better compatibility, and the fact you can't even buy the original anymore (unless you go down the preowned route) makes the decision even easier. 

With its upgraded smart integration and hopefully impressive sound to match, we're happy to see the HomePod finally make its return, filling the HomePod-shaped hole in Apple's lineup that's been left absent for nearly two years now. 

Be sure to check back for our full HomePod 2 review coming soon, where we'll be able to fully determine the smart speaker's audio capabilities.  

MORE:

Read our full Apple HomePod review

And our Apple HomePod Mini review

The HomePod 2 has zero competition - and that's a problem 

Lewis Empson
Staff Writer

Staff Writer Lewis is the newest addition to the What Hi-Fi? editorial team. Previously Gaming and Digital editor for Cardiff University's 'Quench Magazine', Lewis graduated in 2021 and has since worked on a selection of lifestyle magazines and regional newspapers. In his down time he enjoys gaming and regular cinema trips.