Apple raised a few eyebrows when it discontinued the original HomePod last year. 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. What's more, Apple still hasn't announced a successor.
At the time, the tech giant said it had decided to focus on sales of the smaller, cheaper HomePod Mini. But judging by leaked Apple patents – and a recent iOS 16 leak – it seems as though the company could be building up to the launch of a new speaker dubbed 'HomePod 2'. Better late than never, we say.
Apple is yet to confirm the HomePod 2, but there's a possibility we could see it revealed in 2022. Fingers crossed it'll support Apple Music Lossless. Here's everything we know so far about Apple's next smart speaker, plus the features we'd like to see from it...
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Apple HomePod 2: release date rumours
Apple announced its first smart speaker – the now discontinued HomePod – in June 2017 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Cupertino followed that up with the launch of the dinky HomePod Mini in October 2020, which was announced in new colours in October 2021.
So, when can we expect to see the HomePod 2? In a Bloomberg (opens in new tab) 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".
This was followed by a May 2022 tweet (see below) from noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He reckons a new HomePod will land either at the end of 2022 or start of 2023. And in June 2022, references to an unreleased HomePod – codenamed "AudioAccessory6" – were said to have appeared in the iOS16 beta code.
Apple would release a new version of HomePod in 4Q22-1Q23, and there may not be much innovation in hardware design. Smart speakers are undoubtedly one of the essential elements of the home ecosystem, but I think Apple is still figuring out how to succeed in this market.May 20, 2022
Currently, according to Mark Gurman, we can expect a HomePod 2 release date in late 2023 or early 2024 at the latest, while it would stand to reason we'd hear an announcement sometime in 2023, given that timeframe. Though, there continues to be speculation that we'll get an announcement in 2022.
There was some talk of a surprise HomePod 2 reveal at Apple's 18th October Unleashed event, but that was a bust. Instead, tech fans were treated to a new MacBook Pro with a 'game-changing' Spatial Audio sound system.
To add fuel to the fire, Apple has discontinued the Beats Pill+, the last remaining Bluetooth speaker from the firms Beats subsidiary. Again, it seems to point to the launch of a new Apple speaker.
Apple HomePod 2: price news
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 (opens in new tab)). This was backed up recently by non other than Siri herself, when she was spotted on video claiming she had put answers "displayed on your HomePod." 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!)
Bloomberg reports that a new HomePod will come outfitted with the chip of the future Apple Watch Series 8 and will be similar in size and performance to the original HomePod, but this is still largely speculation, as Bloomberg reports that Apple is still in the design and testing phase of new smart home tech.
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 2020 iPhone 12, or even the A15 Bionic chip in the 2021 iPhone 13.
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 (opens in new tab) is to be believed, the next HomePod could be the first to sport a camera. It would certainly make FaceTiming from the sofa a lot less hassle. There's even 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 Apple TV 4K (2021) box.
That latest Apple streamer has 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.
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.
In October 2021 Apple launched a Apple Music Voice Plan, which offers half-price subscription if you only use Siri voice control. The cut-price Voice Plan is available on all Siri-capable devices, including the iPhone 13, AirPods 3 and HomePod Mini, so we'd expect the HomePod 2 to join the party.
With high-quality music streaming services gaining ground, and Apple Music now offering CD-quality, hi-res lossless and Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio tracks, 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?
Finally, there's talk (via PatentlyApple (opens in new tab)) of all future Apple products working with Cupertino's rumoured mixed-reality headset.
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 13 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 a 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 to find out...
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