Could Apple be about to release the HomePod 2, a smaller version of its Siri smart speaker?
That's a question we've been asking ourselves for a while now now – and while Apple's iPhone X launch event on September 12, 2018 didn't reveal what the next HomePod will look like, the HomePod 2 could finally be on the horizon.
Nearly a year has passed since then, and the iPhone 11 launch saw no mention of the new Apple HomePod Mini – so, everything is pointing to a 2020 release date.
The speculation is that the next version of the HomePod, the Apple HomePod 2, may be a more compact version of the original, with the name Apple HomePod Mini being rumored.
According to a Bloomberg report in July 2018, Apple may have been looking to release the HomePod 2 sometime in early 2019, which would make sense based on the release date of the original HomePod – of course, it never actually materialized.
- New iPhone 11 release date, price, news, and leaks
Some thought that we might have heard an official announcement at Apple's WWDC keynote on June 3 – instead the company announced multi-user support is coming to Apple HomePod this year alongside Handoff, the ability to share an audio stream from an iOS device just by holding it close to the speaker. The new features are expected to arrive alongside the iOS 13 update that was also announced at WWDC 2019 and slated for a September 2019 roll out.
With the news of updates coming to the original HomePod, a 2019 release for the HomePod 2 is looking less likely, especially as it wasn't announced at Apple's iPhone 11 launch.
- Keep up to date with the latest Apple news with our iPhone 11 launch liveblog
The original Apple HomePod has been on sale since February 2018 and has so far been met with mixed reviews. While many people praised it as a speaker, when it comes to its capabilities as a smart home hub, there are many who question whether it’s worth its rather high price point.
With some reports claiming that sales aren’t doing particularly well, the stage could be set for a HomePod Mini, and though Apple is yet to make any kind of confirmation we have heard a few whispers about it – a cheaper and smaller HomePod could be exactly what the brand needs to draw in those who have yet to be convinced.
We've already seen how well the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot have done, so it would make sense for Apple to follow suit. Regardless of whether it’s in the works or not, this is exactly what we’d like to see from the HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini if it ever arrives.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The new Apple HomePod smart speaker could either be the HomePod 2 or the rumored HomePod Mini
- When is it out? This is still TBC, but we think it could be released in 2020.
- What will it cost? No pricing just yet but, if it is a smaller version, it’s likely to be cheaper than the fully-fledged HomePod
Apple HomePod 2 release date
Considering the Apple HomePod 2 hasn’t actually been announced yet, and there isn’t really any kind of historical pattern when it comes to previous releases for this this product, making a guess on a release date is tricky.
We're also not yet certain whether the new HomePod will be full-sized, or a mini version of the original. We were surprised not to hear any details at Apple's yearly iPhone launch, which kept the smart home news limited to a HomePod OS update coming on September 17, with new search features, multiple timers, and additional Siri languages.
As we didn't get an announcement at Apple's WWDC on June 3, or at Apple's new iPhone 11 launch, it's likely that we won't see an announcement until 2020.
Apple HomePod 2 and Apple HomePod Mini news and rumors
There’s not exactly a glut of HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini rumors out there but there have been a couple of reports worth picking up on.
Face ID and 3D gestures
A recently filed patent by Apple suggests that the second generation smart speaker could support Face ID.
According to MacRumors, the patent describes a "countertop speaker" that could "identify users in the vicinity of the speaker using facial recognition, as well as measure the distance of users [in relation] to the speaker".
The patent also explained the countertop speaker would be kitted out with "various sensors and cameras that gather hand gestures and other three-dimensional gesture input."
Having Face ID built into the Apple HomePod 2 could provide an additional layer of security for users, as well as allowing for multiple user profiles, with each user identified via facial recognition.
However, MacRumors also identified a rather unusual potential feature of the Apple HomePod 2 in the patent – an "emoji-based avatar that would adapt to a user's mood or actions," perhaps even mirroring your emotions.
Apple's patent for a 'Multi-listener stereo image array' describes a system where "multiple people can experience a stereo audio effect, regardless of where they are seated," according to Apple Insider.
One of the more recent rumors around a new HomePod came from a Chinese tech firm called Sina, stating that there could be a cut-price HomePod with Beats branding in the works.
We haven’t seen a great deal of Beats-branded releases since Apple purchased the company in 2014, so this might be a chance for Apple to revive the name while repositioning the reportedly floundering HomePod to a brand new (perhaps younger) audience.
According to the report, the new HomePod would cost around $199 (about £150, AU$260), which is in line with previous rumors and would go some way to combating criticisms of the speaker’s high price point. This is a report which should, however, be taken with a fistful of salt.
The first report of a Mini HomePod
Back in March 2018, only a month after the HomePod’s release, there was a report from Economic Daily that Apple was planning to release a more affordable HomePod at some point in 2018.
It was rumored that this cheaper HomePod would launch in the US in the second half of 2018 for around $200 (around £145, AU$260), which is significantly lower than the device’s current $349 / £319 / AU$499 price point. In this report it wasn’t made clear how Apple was actually planning to lower the price of its speaker, but a brand new and smaller Apple HomePod Mini could be a way to do this.
What we want to see from the HomePod 2
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 playback 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 Bluetooth connectivity would be useful – and in the case of a HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini being 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, or $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$17.99 for a family account.
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 Google Play Music 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 could give a 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.
More color options
The Apple HomePod is certainly an attractive speaker, with its fabric mesh covering and cylindrical size subtle enough to fit among many decors. But that’s not always what you’re looking for – sometimes you want a gadget that separates you from the pack, as evidenced by Apple’s Beats headphones.
That brand has been built around bold colorful designs, and if the rumors that the HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini is to feature Beats branding prove to be true, we’d like to see the speaker embrace Beats’ colorful aesthetic as well.
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. There are rumors that Siri will be cut from the device entirely to save on cost, but we’d rather see some improvements.