There's a Google Home Mini and an Amazon Echo Dot. But is Apple on the verge of launching a smaller version of its popular HomePod smart speaker?
That's a question we've been asking ourselves for over 6 months now. Apple's yearly iPhone launch event on September 12, 2018, didn't reveal what the next HomePod will look like.
Of course that hasn't stopped speculation 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.
However, with no mention of an updated HomePod at September's launch, we just don't know whether Apple is about to bring out a bite-sized HomePod Mini to counter smart speaker rivals Google and Amazon.
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.
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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.
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? With no mention at Apple's WWDC event, a 2020 release date is looking more and more likely
- 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, a 2019 release for the HomePod 2 is looking less likely – our money is on a 2020 release date.
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.
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.