Apple pulled plug on plan to battle Sonos Roam with battery-powered HomePod

Apple HomePod Mini
(Image credit: Future)

Apple once planned to release a portable battery-powered version of its HomePod smart speaker, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

In his PowerOn newsletter, Gurman said the company even created a prototype HomePod Bluetooth speaker before ultimately shelving the project.

If Gurman's claim is accurate, that's a shame, as there are few truly portable smart speakers on the market right now – we could certainly do with a rival to challenge our favorite model, the Sonos Roam, if only to shake up the market a bit.

Right now, Apple's only wireless speaker, the HomePod mini (Apple discontinued the original HomePod in March last year) needs to be plugged into a power outlet. 

Beats Pill Plus with a phone leaning on it

The Beats Pill+ (pictured) was recently discontinued. (Image credit: Future)

More recently, Apple discontinued the only Bluetooth speaker in its subsidiary Beats' range, unceremoniously getting rid of the Beats Pill+. While the company is yet to confirm the reason behind the move, Apple has been steadily streamlining the Beats product lineup over the last year, having also discontinued the Powerbeats, Beats EP, and Solo Pro headphones and earbuds.

While canning the Beats Pill+ could be Apple's way of making room for a new HomePod Bluetooth speaker, Gurman isn't convinced, saying he would be surprised if a portable smart speaker ever launches under the Apple name.

We're less eager to rule out the possibility, though. After all, Apple has massively expanded its range of audio devices in recent years, making waves in the true wireless earbuds market with the AirPods, and later delving into the world of over-ear headphones with the AirPods Max

Now that the HomePod range has been reduced to one, smaller version of its original smart speaker, there's certainly an appetite for – and the expectation that – a new HomePod will be launched in the near future.

Analysis: what's next for the Apple HomePod?

Apple HomePod Mini

(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple HomePod mini is a fantastic speaker in its own right, but its small stature and low price makes us doubt that Apple wouldn’t release a follow-up to its original flagship smart speaker in a bid to compete with more powerful models like the Amazon Echo Studio and the Sonos One.

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 it may even come with a display, if rumors are to be believed. 

In a previous Bloomberg report 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". 

So, there's no guarantee that a new HomePod will launch this year, but it's apparent that Apple is continuing to explore what it can do in the realm of wireless speakers

We think it's likely that any new HomePod will act as a replacement for the company's first smart speaker – and that means it will be big and powerful, and probably too weighty to be a portable Bluetooth speaker. 

That's not to say that a portable HomePod is totally out of the question. In any case, we'd be surprised if we never saw another Beats Bluetooth speaker. The subsidiary tends to offer cheaper products than Apple's own range of devices, which means the company has a presence across a broad swathe of the audio market. 

While Beats products generally play very nicely within the larger Apple ecosystem, they're also usually more operating system-agnostic than the company's own devices, with models like the Beats Fit Pro offering the same features to Android users as to owners of iOS devices. 

So we think a Bluetooth speaker under the Beats banner that isn't tied to a specific ecosystem would work well, whereas a smart speaker that can switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth just screams 'Apple' – to us, anyway. 

In any case, we hope that both Apple and Beats release new speakers in the near future. Right now we only have the Apple HomePod mini, and as much as we like it, its audio performance isn't a patch on that of Sonos's wireless speakers – and we know from the original HomePod that Apple can do fantastic audio outside of the AirPods range of true wireless earbuds and headphones.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.