Apple discontinued its original HomePod smart speaker in 2021, choosing instead to focus on the cheaper mini version of the device. Today, the company has resurrected the bigger unit with several notable updates along the way, including upgraded audio, an S7 chip, more smart home abilities and a lower price. The overall design, however, is mostly unchanged from the first speaker that debuted in 2018.
Apple says the retooled HomePod audio delivers “rich, deep bass and stunning high frequencies.” More specifically, a custom-made woofer, diaphragm motor, bass EQ mic and a group of five tweeters are all part of the sonic setup. An S7 chip and software combine for computational audio that the company says “maximizes the full potential” of the unit. HomePod is equipped with room sensing tech, so it can read sound reflections to determine its position (near a wall or in free space) and adjust the audio in real time. And of course, Spatial Audio via Apple Music is available here.
HomePod can be arranged with another unit or a HomePod mini for a multi-room setup via AirPlay. You can either play the same song on all of them, a different song on each or use the entire group as an intercom. With Apple’s Ultra Wideband tech, you can hand off the audio playing on your iPhone (even a call) to a HomePod with ease. And you can still use two HomePod speakers as a stereo pair — with an Apple TV, for example. Once synced, the two units separate audio in to left and right channels for a wider soundstage in a home theater setup. Thanks to the eARC connection on the Apple TV 4K, a pair of connected HomePod units can function as the audio setup for all devices hooked up to your TV.
Perhaps the most interesting updates to the HomePod are its smart home tools. First, a feature called Sound Recognition can monitor for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and send an alert to your iPhone if it hears one. Unfortunately, this tool won’t be available until a software update delivers it “later this spring.” Apple is also clear it shouldn’t be relied on for emergencies. There’s a new built-in temperature and humidity sensor that keeps tabs on the environment. Apple says this enables HomePod to close blinds or turn on a fan to achieve your preset temp.
With Siri, you can control individual devices or create scenes to employ several at once. That isn’t new, but HomePod will now play a confirmation tone so that even though a connected device may not show a change, you’ll know your request was granted. Since Matter is all the rage these days, the new HomePod can connect to and control gadgets compatible with that smart home standard. Apple says any smart home communications are end-to-end encrypted by default and the company can’t read them. Siri requests are also not stored by default.
This HomePod is the first that uses 100 percent recycled gold for circuit boards. The speaker’s magnet is also made with 100 percent recycled rare earth metals. Apple says it redesigned the packaging to reduce plastic use and a new Midnight color option is made with 100 percent recycled mesh fabric.
The new HomePod is available for pre-order now from Apple and ships February 3rd. At $299, it’s $50 cheaper than the original model when it first debuted.