Apple's HomePod 2 is available to buy today, with pickup available from stores in the US and UK. But should you buy the surprise second edition of Apple's smart speaker? Only if you've fully bought into the Apple ecosystem.
Our Apple HomePod 2 review praises the speaker's "rich sound", concluding that "for its price, no single speaker sounds quite as good". If you can afford to double up on its $299 / £299 / AU$479 price tag, we also recommend combining two in a stereo system. While there's still a wait on home deliveries, the HomePod 2 is available to buy online from the Apple Store (opens in new tab) today if you choose the store pickup option.
The second edition HomePod – which follows the original that arrived in 2018 and was discontinued just three years later – continues to have a relatively niche appeal. It doesn't hugely improve on its predecessor or fix its main issues, most notably its lack of Bluetooth connectivity.
The latter means the HomePod 2 is again pretty fussy about where it receives its audio from. In fact, the only ways to play music are by using Apple AirPlay 2 via Wi-Fi, or the Siri voice assistant. That means you can only send audio from an Apple device, which is pretty limiting if anyone in your household uses Android.
Still, if you do mainly own iPhones and iPads – and also subscribe to Apple Music for its Dolby Atmos powers – there is nothing quite like the HomePod 2. It's the best smart speaker around for Apple fans, even if it still isn't particularly smart.
The HomePod 2's new support for the Matter smart home standard, plus its temperature and humidity sensors, have some potential, but we didn't find them to be particularly compelling right now. The speaker's smart home potential is likely one of the main reasons that Apple has brought it back, though, so we're looking forward to seeing how this develops.
Analysis: Why has the HomePod returned?
It's highly unusual for Apple to relaunch a product less than two years after saying it's been discontinued. As our Apple HomePod 2 review discovered, the new model doesn't offer a great deal more than the original version or fix its biggest problems; so why has it returned?
Apple’s Matthew Costello (vice president of Hardware Engineering and Operations) recently told TechCrunch (opens in new tab) that Apple fans were simply demanding it. "We really did hear from our customers this growing interest for more powerful and richer acoustics of a larger speaker," he said.
Given that sales are also a good way to gauge customer demand, and that these seemingly weren't high enough to prevent Apple from discontinuing the original HomePod, this is a slightly strange argument. But it's also true that a couple of things have changed in the past couple of years to make a full-size HomePod more appealing again.
Firstly, Apple Music now supports lossless playback along with Dolby Atmos spatial audio. The latter bounces sound off your walls to create greater separation and is particularly useful if you own an Apple TV, as you can use a pair of HomePod 2's as an alternative to the best soundbars.
We also saw the Matter 1.0 smart home standard finally launch last November. All devices that support it – including the HomePod 2 – can interact with each other, regardless of their manufacturer or whether they support Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple HomeKit.
Apple clearly sees the HomePod 2 as a key piece of its new push to be part of your Matter-supporting smart home. While it's still early days for that, the new HomePod's detailed and balanced sound will serve up a good soundtrack to listen to in the meantime.