Apple raised a few eyebrows when it discontinued the original HomePod in March 2021. The company's flagship smart speaker might have been four years old, but it was still one of the best wireless speakers you could buy at the time. Not only that, Apple didn't announce a successor.
Apple said it had taken the decision to focus on sales of the smaller, cheaper HomePod Mini, but judging by recent Apple patents it looks like the tech giant may have had a change of heart. Word is, Apple is busy developing a new, full-size speaker dubbed 'HomePod 2'. Better 'late' than never, we say.
Apple is yet to confirm its existence, but there's a possibility we could see the HomePod 2 revealed as early as 18th October, at Apple's Unleashed event. Fingers crossed it'll support Apple Music Lossless, too.
With speculation starting to grow, here's everything we know so far about Apple's next Siri-powered smart speaker, plus the features we'd like to see from it...
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Apple HomePod 2: release date
Apple announced its first smart speaker – the now discontinued HomePod – in June 2017 at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference. It followed that up with the launch of the dinky HomePod Mini in October 2020.
Apple tends to launch new audio products on an annual basis, but it's impossible to categorically state when we could see the new HomePod 2 break cover. While most tech analysts tip an Apple HomePod 2 release date for 2022 — in a recent Bloomberg piece reporter Mark Gurman claimed that "before the discontinuation of the larger HomePod, the company had been working on an updated version for release in 2022" — we could be treated to a surprise HomePod 2 reveal at Apple's 18th October Unleashed event.
Apple soundbar: price
There's no word on the Apple HomePod 2 price, but if it is a full-size speaker like its predecessor, we'd expect it to cost about the same – £319 ($349, AU$499). We certainly wouldn't expect it to be northwards of that. After all, Apple discounted the original HomePod to £279 ($299/AU$379) in 2019 following criticism of the high cost. (Here's today's best HomePod and HomePod Mini deals, if you're in the market for one.)
The baseball-sized HomePod Mini costs just £99 ($99, AU$149) and performs brilliantly for the money. But there's no getting away from it: the demise of the beefier HomePod has left Apple without an answer to larger, more powerful smart speakers like the Amazon Echo Studio and Sonos One.
Apple HomePod 2: design
The original HomePod is a beautifully crafted device, complete with cleverly arranged tweeters and subwoofers that deliver detail and control in equal measure. At 2.5kg, it's heavier than some would think, but overall we couldn't find fault with the design.
Indeed, the design of the 2017 HomePod was so successful that Apple used the same seamless fabric mesh to wrap the HomePod Mini. The two speakers also share a glossy top panel, uniformly black when the speaker is resting, where Siri appears as a shifting ball of colour.
So, how could Apple improve on the original HomePod? Well, there's talk of the company reconfiguring its next smart speaker as an Apple soundbar of sorts. A HomePod that could work horizontally as well as vertically would be great for those who want to use a single speaker with their TV more practically.
Others say it could have both voice controls and some sort of built-in display and camera (via Bloomberg). We also wouldn't say no to gestural controls that allow on-unit control without actually having to touch the touchpad, nor would we turn our nose up at some sort of built-in battery and subsequent portability like the Sonos Move (although this is probably a stretch for a HomePod design at this point!)
There haven't been any significant leaks around those rumours yet, so we'd take them with a pinch of salt.
Apple HomePod 2: features
We've yet to see any reliable leaks pertaining to the HomePod 2, so the following is more of a wish list – features we'd like to see from Apple's next smart speaker.
Let's start with a beefier processor. The original HomePod uses Apple's A8 chip, which provided plenty of power at the time of its launch but has been well and truly outstripped by newer Apple chips in the years since. With a bit of luck, the HomePod 2 could be treated to the A14 Bionic chip found in the current iPhone 12.
We'd also expect any new HomePod to feature Apple's U1 chip, as found in the current HomePod Mini and AirPods Max headphones. The U1 enables faster data transfer between Apple devices and, in the case of the HomePod Mini, a nifty 'Intercom' feature.
If this Bloomberg report is to be believed, the next HomePod could be the first to sport a camera. It would certainly make FaceTiming from the sofa less hassle. There's also talk of Apple adding a 'depth-sensing' camera that could enable gesture controls or the ability to pinpoint the listener's position in the room and optimise 3D audio (namely Apple spatial audio) accordingly.
Talking of 3D audio, Apple tried valiantly to make the HomePod work better with the Apple TV video streamer, even adding a 'Home Theater' mode in 2020, but the plan never quite came together. Given that Amazon's Echo Studio offers Dolby Atmos, and that Apple Music will have Atmos-powered tracks from June, we'd expect a HomePod 2 to support Atmos and work seamlessly with the latest Apple TV 4K box.
That latest Apple streamer has the new eARC HDMI support built in, so an HDMI input (or HDMI transmitter, even) would be handy – especially if the HomePod can work in horizontal and vertical orientations. Sticking with its use alongside a TV, we would like to be able to combine HomePods and HomePod Minis for a surround sound system with surround format decoding and the works, too. Right now, you can only pair HomePods or HomePod Minis – and only in stereo configuration.
As for music streaming, the original HomePod is basically locked to Apple Music. It doesn't offer Bluetooth connectivity and you can't set the speaker up without an iOS device. Could Apple broaden its horizons and open up the HomePod 2 to other music streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and Amazon Music HD? We hope so.
With high-quality music streaming services gaining ground, and Apple Music set to support CD-quality, hi-res lossless and Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio from June, we'd expect the HomePod 2 to raise the benchmark of wireless speaker sound. (Here's which current devices will and won't play lossless and Spatial Audio.)
When it comes to smart home wizardry, we know that the HomePod Mini contains a hidden temperature sensor, which would seem to suggest that Apple has big plans to up its smart home game. Could the HomePod 2 activate a fan when your room gets too hot? Or send a notification to your iPhone when the baby's room gets too cold?
Apple HomePod 2: sound
Back in 2018, we said in our HomePod review that it was "the best-sounding smart speaker"... and that hasn't changed. We awarded it the full five stars, praising its ability to "deliver the essence of everything you play... from Bach to Band of Horses, Bonobo to Bob Marley".
We fully expect Apple to pour the HomePod's impressive sonic abilities into the HomePod 2 – and then stir in a few improvements. Apple has a proven knack for extracting spacious, detailed and musical audio from almost any device, whether it be a pair of AirPods Max headphones or an iPhone 12 phone, so we'd expect a very high standard of performance, if not a class-leading one, from any upcoming smart speaker. Especially if it's going to have a premium price tag over its closest Amazon and Sonos rivals.
Our only performance-related criticism of the HomePod was that, at the most congested points, it becomes just a little muddled, with some rivals (such as the Ultimate Ears Megablast) able to offer a little more clarity in their organisation. Fingers crossed that's one area where a sequel will bring improvements.
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Apple HomePod 2: early verdict
The Apple HomePod 2 is nothing more than rumour at this point, but with Apple demonstrating a strong commitment to high-quality and spatial 3D music via Apple Music, a new high-end smart speaker could well be on the horizon.
HomePod 2 could also act as a showcase for the latest and greatest version of Siri and help Apple take centre stage in your smart home. Looks like we'll have to wait until the Unleashed event on 18th October to find out...
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