The original Apple HomePod was one of the best wireless speakers on the market, before it was unceremoniously discontinued in March 2021 and the company elected to focus on the smaller and cheaper Apple HomePod mini.
But with Apple's spatial audio-enhanced music now one year old and the recent release of Apple Music Sessions, available in Spatial Audio, it seems highly likely that a new HomePod boasting support for Spatial Audio is coming… and it's even been spotted in the wild.
- Expected to launch in fall 2022 or early 2023
- Possibly cheaper than the original HomePod
- Could incorporate a screen like the Echo Show
- Might work with the rumored Apple MR headset
- Could finally use the temperature and humidity sensor
Our hopes and dreams for a new HomePod were first rekindled thanks to Mark Gurman's June 2022 missive, in which the noted analyst states:
"The (new) HomePod, code-named B620, will run the same S8 chip coming to the (new Apple) watches and will be closer to the original HomePod in terms of size and audio performance rather than a new HomePod mini. The new HomePod will have an updated display on top and there's even been some talk of multi-touch functionality."
And most recently, in his August Power On update, Gurman claims that Apple has “at least four new smart home devices in its labs, but not all will see the light of the day.”
So, an updated Apple HomePod and a refreshed HomePod mini, maybe? It seems highly likely. The Apple HomePod mini is a fantastic speaker in its own right and its small stature and low price put it squarely up against some of the best smart speakers on the market, including the Amazon Echo Studio and the Sonos One – but the HomePod is Apple's inaugural flagship wireless speaker – and the only one that supports Apple Music's much-lauded Lossless and Spatial Audio content.
Since Apple discontinued the HomePod, we’ve seen a number of patents that could suggest that the company is looking to create a new HomePod model – the so-called Apple HomePod 2 – and according to some rumors, it may even come with a tablet-like display (think Amazon Echo Show 15).
So far, Apple hasn’t confirmed whether the HomePod 2 really exists, but that's nothing new. Respected tipsters have mentioned it and iOS 16 beta users have spotted it – so that's as good as dyed in the wool for us.
Apple HomePod 2: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Apple HomePod 2 release date: Apple was rumored to have plans to release a HomePod 2 in 2022, however that project might have been shelved when the HomePod was discontinued. Mark Gurman thinks the HomePod 2 will launch as part of a slew of Apple products slated for fall 2022 and early 2023.
Apple HomePod 2 price: We don't know how much the HomePod 2 will cost but we hope it comes in lower than the $349 / £319 / AU$499 that the original HomePod cost at launch.
Apple HomePod 2 design and features: Rumors have suggested that the HomePod 2 could include a screen like the Amazon Echo Show and could work in tandem with the Apple MR headset. More recently, Gurman points to an "updated display on top" plus "talk of multi-touch functionality". According to Gurman, "at least four new smart home devices" are being worked on in Apple's labs, but "not all will see the light of the day".
Apple HomePod 2 release date
There’s no official word yet on when the Apple HomePod 2 will be released – or indeed if it really exists – but while there was no mention of the smart speaker at Apple's 2021 hardware events nor at Apple's March 2022 Event, it did actually surface in iOS 16.
Still, we could be waiting a while to see the HomePod 2 all the same. In a Bloomberg report (opens in new tab), Mark Gurman said that "before the discontinuation of the larger HomePod, the company had been working on an updated version for release in 2022. It has also been developing new speakers with screens and cameras, but such a launch isn’t imminent."
However, more recently, Gurman has seemed far more hopeful about a new HomePod release, stating that the new HomePod (code-named B620), will run the same S8 chip coming to new Apple watches and will be closer to the original HomePod in terms of size and audio performance – ie. rather than a new HomePod mini.
We should note that it's yet to be seen if Apple's new speakers will actually pick up the HomePod mantle – but it now sounds like we could still be waiting until early 2023 before its release.
Apple HomePod 2 price
Again, there’s no word on a potential price for the Apple HomePod 2, but if it’s another full-sized – or close to full-sized – HomePod as opposed to the HomePod mini, we’d expect it to cost about the same as the original smart speaker.
When it launched in 2018 (after an unveiling in 2017), the Apple HomePod cost $349 / £319 / AU$499, making it one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market – and certainly the most expensive mainstream option.
That’s why we were surprised when the Apple HomePod mini was released in 2020 for just $99 / £99 / AU$149. We’re emphatically hoping that the next HomePod will be full-size, but that Apple will find a happy medium between the two price points.
Apple HomePod 2 design and features
So far we’ve heard a few Apple HomePod 2 rumors that might tell us what the next smart speaker will be like.
A battery-powered HomePod
According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in his PowerOn newsletter (opens in new tab)Apple planned to release a portable battery-powered version of its HomePod that we could have seen challenge our favorite portable speaker: the Sonos Roam.
Apple recently discontinued the only Bluetooth speaker in its subsidiary Beats' range, unceremoniously getting rid of the Beats Pill+, meaning that it could be making way for a new portable option.
Despite that, it sounds like the portable HomePod plans have been shelved for now – but we'll have to wait and see what it comes out with if a HomePod 2 is unveiled.
A HomePod with a screen
One of the most interesting rumors is that the HomePod 2 could come with a screen, like the Amazon Echo Show 10 and the Google Nest Hub 2. Most recently, Mark Gurman quashes this slightly, claiming an "updated display on top" rather than an extra screen.
That "multi-touch functionality" Gurman mentions, however, could well echo the Google Nest Hub's functionality, suggesting waving across said display to skip tracks, instead of the tap-tap-tapping required today.
Plus, as MacRumors' Steve Moser (opens in new tab) discovered in the tvOS 14.5 beta code, Apple has added FaceTime and iMessage frameworks, as well as a new AVFCapture framework related to capturing images.
Apple uses tvOS as the basis for the software that runs on the HomePod, rather than iOS – and that means messaging and video calls could come to a future HomePod smart display, too.
Smarter than your average smart speaker
Whether the next HomePod is a smart display or a regular smart speaker, it has the potential to be very clever. A newly-uncovered patent shows that Apple has ambitions for its smart speakers to work alongside its rumored Apple MR headset and Apple Glasses.
The patent describes an audio speaker system that is equipped with additional microphones and depth-sensing cameras. In tandem, they’d be able to pinpoint a user’s position in a room, and tailor a 3D audio experience to suit what’s being seen in a virtual reality environment.
From what we can gather from the patent, a user with one or more HomePods set up could enjoy adaptive and surrounding audio without the need for headphones or on-device speakers like what you see with the Meta Quest headsets. Say there’s a virtual cat in your VR experience – walking towards it could increase the volume of its meow from a HomePod Mini, for instance.
This would also work in two-way communication applications – a user with a similar setup elsewhere could transmit their spatial audio information to another user in VR with the same setup, and both would be able to identify sound coming from the other in 3D space.
The patent also goes to describe how this could be used for commercial purposes and lays out how a recording and transmission system could be set up at a live music event, and beamed to a VR headset with the resulting spatial audio information.
As with any patented technology, there’s no guarantee that these features will actually materialize – but they do give us an interesting insight into the future of Apple speakers.
The Apple HomePod mini may offer a few clues as to the features we’ll see from the next HomePod, too.
A built-in temperature sensor
The HomePod mini contains a hidden sensor that can measure temperature and humidity – potentially unlocking new and exciting features for the device in the future.
A recent report from Bloomberg (opens in new tab) highlighted the previously undiscovered feature, describing a sensor that could allow “internet-connected thermostats (to) adjust different parts of a home based on current conditions.”
The hardware could also let the HomePod mini automatically engage other actions depending on temperature – such as activating a fan – which suggests the device might see a host of functionality upgrades in future software updates.
It’s possible that these functionality upgrades could come to the HomePod 2 as well, if Apple decides to include these sensors in a future model.
Apple HomePod 2: what we want to see
While information on the Apple HomePod 2 is still thin on the ground, there are a few things we’d like to see from the rumored smart speaker.
Sure, smart speakers are all about voice controls, and the fact that they’re standalone devices that don’t need to be hooked up to another audio source in order to play back tunes and podcasts. But, sometimes, a few added options are just convenient – especially if you’re trying to play back a track that, for whatever reason, can’t be found on the smart speaker’s streaming service of choice.
It may not be cutting edge in the smart speaker world, but there’s still the odd occasion when a Bluetooth speaker would be useful, and it’s a feature that was introduced with the HomePod mini.
If the HomePod 2 is similarly tied to Apple Music, that’d be particularly useful for anyone looking to access, say, Spotify streaming. Which brings us onto our next point…
Open access to other music services
If you buy one of the current Apple HomePod speakers, you’re essentially locking yourself into Apple’s audio ecosystem. So, iTunes purchases aside, that’s $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$11.99 a month for a single Apple Music streaming account, $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$17.99 for a family account, or, if you just want to holler tune requests at Siri, a slightly cheaper Apple Music Voice subscription.
That’s fine if you’re an iPhone-owning Cupertino disciple, and Apple Music is a fine service definitely worth investing in. But, if you’ve already committed to Spotify or any of the other myriad smaller streaming options, that could be a frustrating restriction.
By knocking a few bricks out of its walled garden and letting other services have a look in, Apple could give any new Apple HomePod a user base boost – and it could be paired with incentives to jump to Apple Music, if Apple played a savvy long-game.
Better Siri performance
Apple’s HomePod does well on sound but when it comes to smarts it’s somewhat lacking. Compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, Siri is rather limited in what it can do for you as a smart home hub. This isn’t great considering it’s one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market, and Siri is your main means of controlling it.
With that in mind, we’d love to see better Siri performance in a new HomePod iteration when it comes to performing commands quickly and accurately.