Not long after Apple unceremoniously discontinued the original HomePod smart speaker, we're now hearing reports that the next HomePod could come with a screen like the Amazon Echo Show 10 and the upcoming Google Nest Hub 2.
In the report, Gurman says 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".
- Read our Apple HomePod mini review
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- Check out our Amazon Echo Show 10 review
It's not like Apple to discontinue a product before a replacement is announced, and it's not clear whether we'll see a 'traditional' HomePod model in the near future to accompany the HomePod mini.
However, the news that Apple is potentially working on a smart display, could be a good indication that the company is renewing its focus on smart home compatibility.
Plus, as MacRumors' Steve Moser 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.
A smart move
Apple has typically struggled in the smart home arena, with Amazon and Google dominating the market with their better-connected smart displays and smart speakers.
The Apple HomePod has long had a place in our round-up of the best wireless speakers you can buy, but that’s mainly due to its excellent audio performance – in terms of smart home integration, it doesn’t measure up to the likes of the Amazon Echo or the Google Nest Hub Max.
As we've speculated, that could be one reason for the speaker's abrupt discontinuation – and if Apple is planning on making a smart display, it will need to up its game considerably, particularly where Siri is concerned.
Siri is Apple's answer to Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa – but the voice assistant just isn't as clever as its rivals, and that means Apple's smart speakers aren't as easy to integrate into a smart home system as the competition.
Adding fuel to the rumors that Apple is upping its smart home game is the recent discovery of latent temperature sensors inside the HomePod mini. According to Bloomberg, the sensors 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.
At present, the HomePod mini is unable to perform the temperature and humidity-reading functions permitted by the sensor, so it seems likely that Apple will introduce this functionality in a future software update – perhaps giving the company a sneak preview of how a super-connected HomePod smart display would be received by consumers.
In any case, better smart home functionality could certainly give the HomePod mini a longer lifespan than its bigger, more expensive predecessor – whether Apple can take on the stiff smart display competition from Amazon and Google, remains to be seen.