The HomePod 2 is coming; that much we've known almost as soon as the first-generation model was released, thanks to a surfeit of rumours and leaks around an upgraded HomePod. But when will we get our hands on the second-generation HomePod, how much might it cost and what improvements will it offer? And what about the idea of a smaller 'HomePod Mini'?
We've rounded-up all the leaks, rumours and news, run them through our filter and sorted them into shape to deliver a thorough preview of what we can expect from the HomePod 2 and HomePod Mini. But first, some history.
It’s easy to forget that it's been six years since Amazon's first-gen Amazon Echo changed the realm of wireless speakers forever. Like it or not, speakers with integrated voice assistants have been speaking back to us for a while now and in 2020 every audio outfit worth its salt is cashing in on the action.
A much bigger deal than most is Apple's HomePod, and for reasons beyond simple brand cache. We went to see how the HomePod was made and were amazed by Apple's dedication to sound quality. When we reviewed the HomePod, we declared it "the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy".
The statement remains true today, but the HomePod does come in at the premium end of the market. With big-hitters such as JBL, Sonos, Google and of course Amazon also vying for a bite of the smart speaker cherry (often with more bijou, budget-friendly price tags) it seems inevitable that Apple will release a new, second-gen 'HomePod 2' soon. Luckily, we've got a few tantalising bits of information on what to expect.
HomePod 2 release date
Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about its product releases right down to the wire, so it seemed highly possible that the Cupertino giant would spring a surprise and announce its newest HomePod at this year’s revamped WWDC show in June.
Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference is a stage it typically uses for a big reveal – and since the cancellation of its iPhone event back in March in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Apple surely had big plans for the virtual conference?
If we were gambling types, our money would have been on Apple's over-ear AirPods Studio headphones and the the HomePod 2. A sneak peak of the iPhone 12 was probably a long shot, but we weren't ruling it out.
So what did we get? None of the above. Apple did mention that later this year, it would be adding third-party music support to the HomePod, thus allowing the speaker to work with services like Spotify and Pandora by default, rather than streaming through AirPlay – and presumably that means you'll be able to ask Siri to play a track "with Spotify", rather than just Apple Music.
The WWDC hosts also disclosed that the HomePod is getting a new option to allow Siri to announce when a HomeKit-compatible doorbell is rung. A brand new Apple HomePod though? It wasn't mentioned.
HomePod 2 price
The original HomePod launched at £319/$349, although it can now be snapped up for significantly less – perfect conditions for the launch of a new model.
The HomePod is of course Apple's inaugural (and remarkable) smart speaker, but based on these prices, we'd expect the HomePod 2 to come in somewhere in-between the original RRP and the discounted price – especially if we're looking at a smaller smart speaker than the original.
Back in March 2018, MacRumours reported findings translated from a now-unavailable Taiwanese Economic Daily News piece, stating that a new Apple HomePod speaker was forecast to launch in the second half of 2018 for between $150 and $200 in the United States. That, of course, never happened.
Whether the second-generation Apple HomePod was pulled due to reports that the original HomePod wasn't selling well – thanks to stiff competition from Amazon Echo (£90/$100) and Google Home (£89/$99) – we'll probably never know. But an Apple smart speaker for that money is a tantalising proposition...
HomePod 2 name
But are we even correct in assuming that the new Apple HomePod will be called HomePod 2? If reports of a smaller, cheaper smart speaker from Apple are to be believed (these date back to May 2018, when a Beats-branded HomePod idea was circulated, initially by MacRumours) Apple might choose the moniker 'HomePod Mini', in line with both the more bijou dimensions and the branding of its iPad Mini tablet offerings.
If Apple stays true to its 2001 'Pod' branding – think iPod Touch, AirPods, AirPods Studio – it's highly likely to be one HomePod or the other, and while we're still on the fence about a HomePod Mini denomination, there are an awful lot of HomePod deals for the existing model circulating at the minute – meaning the HomePod 2 might be a safer bet for now.
HomePod 2 design
We'd be surprised if the HomePod Mini or HomePod 2 differed wildly in design from the original HomePod, despite suggestions back in 2018 that Beats branding might feature.
The general consensus is for a smaller, more affordable Apple smart speaker – a prediction backed up by a September 2020 Bloomberg report, which reads, "a smaller HomePod speaker is in the works", although the report is devoid of comment from an Apple spokesperson. So, should we simply expect a scaled-down version of the original?
When What Hi-Fi? was invited behind the scenes at HomePod Development HQ in 2018 to see how the HomePod was made, to say that we were impressed by Apple's preoccupation with sound quality would be an understatement. So much R&D went into the inaugural product's seven-tweeter, six-microphone array, 'high-excursion' woofer and A8 chip, that a complete redesign seems unlikely – though of course that chip could well see an update to support new features and functionality.
HomePod 2 features and specs
So what can we expect from the HomePod 2/HomePod Mini in terms of specs and features?
According to the filing, the Apple "countertop speaker" could "identify users in the vicinity of the speaker using facial recognition, as well as measure the distance of users to the speaker".
The patent also highlighted the inclusion of "various sensors and cameras that gather hand gestures and other three-dimensional gesture input."
After Apple filed a patent for an Apple ring device (featuring a U1 chip) in April, we might expect that users could don the wearable to potentially control both their Apple TV streamer and their HomePod.
Having Face ID built into the Apple HomePod 2 could provide another layer of user-security as well as allowing for multiple users, with each user's profile identified via their actual, real-life profile (or face).
MacRumors noted a rather unusual potential feature of the Apple HomePod 2 in the exhaustive patent: an "emoji-based avatar that would adapt to a user's mood or actions", perhaps even empathising with your emotions.
Ambient light sensing, displaying a sun/rain icon pertaining to the weather forecast, showing the logo of a winning sports team and heart rate monitoring are all mentioned in the 2019 patent.
In the sound department, the HomePod 2 smart speaker could be even more detailed than the original, according to slightly more recent 2019 patents granted to the Cupertino giant.
Apple's patent for a "multi-listener stereo image array" could mean, as noted by AppleInsider, that "multiple people can experience a stereo audio effect, regardless of where they are seated".
HomePod vs HomePod 2: which is better?
Although we have some idea of the features we expect to see in the new HomePod, Apple has yet to officially confirm its existence, let alone its due date. And until we get one into our listening facility, it’s impossible to know how good it’ll be.
What we do know is that advancements – in both the smart speaker arena and Apple's operating systems – show no signs of slowing down. And of course the Apple HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini will aim to improve on the original for both features and sound.
Whether these improvements will include a standard Bluetooth connection (something the Sonos One doesn't offer but the new JBL Link Portable does really rather well) alongside wi-fi, a dedicated HomePod app for your iOS device (the current HomePod doesn't have one), open access to other music streaming services such as Spotify or Tidal, or an improved Siri performance, remains to be seen – but these are all updates we'd like to see.
And let’s not forget that the current HomePod is still brilliant in its own right, particularly now it's been reduced in price. And that price may even fall a little lower as we get closer to the launch of the new model.
We will of course keep this page updated with all of the news and rumours concerning the Apple HomePod 2 and/or HomePod Mini, just as soon as more information emerges.