When will the HomePod 2 be released?
While Apple tends to update its main product lines – Watch, iPhone, iPad and Mac – on a yearly basis, the same can’t be said for its audio collection. The AirPods, AirPods Pro and HomePod are on a totally different update schedule, with Apple waiting three years between the release of the first- and second-generation AirPods, and with the HomePod being a first-generation product, we don’t yet know how long Apple plans to wait between releases.
That’s complicated further by the introduction of the £99/$99 HomePod Mini at the October 2020 Event, bringing a cheaper, yet still smart, speaker to the masses. It’s based loosely on the design of its bigger sibling with a more rounded shape, and at just over 3in tall, it’s certainly worthy of the Mini moniker. It’s not the HomePod 2, but it is a new product to get people more interested in Apple’s smart speaker offering.
At this point, it seems a 2021 or even 2022 release could be on the cards. Apple is rumoured to be revealing the AirPods Studio at an event in March 2021, possibly alongside other updated AirPods, so that could be a good opportunity for Apple to update its high-end smart speaker. We’ll update this section as we hear more.
How much will the HomePod 2 cost?
The HomePod originally cost £329/$349 when it was released, and many criticised it for its high price tag. So much so, in fact, that Apple permanently slashed the price of the HomePod to £279/$299 back in 2019, and it’s often discounted at UK retailers like John Lewis, bringing it down to as little as £199. That’s a much more palatable price for a smart speaker, and more in-line with the likes of the various Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant offerings.
It’s also encouraging to see the HomePod Mini come in at such a competitive price at £99/$99. It’s still expensive compared to Amazon’s Echo Dot, but it does show that Apple is willing to compromise on pricing for its HomePod products.
That being said, we expect the HomePod 2 to cost £279/$$299, or possibly even slightly cheaper, depending on just how hard Apple wants to compete.
Will the HomePod look any different?
This is a little tougher to predict, especially given the lack of leaks to date.
That being said, the HomePod Mini is essentially a smaller, rounder version of the HomePod with the same material and general design language, and as such, we can’t really see Apple completely redesigning the second-generation HomePod. It’d just look out of place alongside the original and the Mini, and if Apple truly wants the HomePod to be a staple of the smart home, it’ll want to encourage using as many as possible in the home.
Besides, there aren’t any real complaints about the design of the HomePod. It might be a bit on the heavy side at 2.5kg, but the seamless mesh fabric and backlit touch surface look sleek, and it doesn’t look out of place no matter where it lives.
What features will the new HomePod offer?
At the heart of the HomePod, you’ll find the now-ageing A8 chipset. For reference, that’s the same chipset as what shipped with the iPhone 6 back in 2015. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s apparent that the A8 is more than capable of handling the current suite of smart features on offer from Apple’s smart speaker, but in order to expand the offering, Apple will need to up the processing power on offer.
It’s hard to say what it’ll feature considering a smart speaker doesn’t need the same level as an iPhone, but if Apple wants to apply the same machine learning technology present in the iPhone and iPad, it’ll have to be an A12 Bionic – or a custom version for the HomePod – at the very minimum.
Alongside an upgraded chipset is likely to be Apple’s U1 chipset, enabling Ultra Wide Band (UWB) functionality. Apple has been slowly integrating the U1 into its product line, now found in the iPhone and Apple Watch, and it’s rumoured to be coming to the next Apple TV and Apple’s AirTags too. The tech makes it easier for Apple devices to communicate, facilitating faster data transfer as well as more accurate location sharing. Take the HomePod Mini for example; using the U1 chip, it can detect when an iPhone is nearby and change audio output to the speaker, and vice-versa.
The problem (and by problem I mean non-problem) with the HomePod is that new features and functionality are often pushed out by OTA update, negating the need for a hardware refresh to introduce fun new things to do.
Since the initial launch of the HomePod, it has gained new functionality including AirPlay 2 support, Apple Intercom and even the ability to recognise up to six different members of the home by the sound of their voices, and it’s likely more features are planned for the future. As revealed at the October 2020 event, Apple is planning to widen music streaming support to include Pandora and Amazon Music in the coming months, and we can only hope that more will be added in future.
There aren’t any solid leaks or rumours about what to expect from the HomePod 2, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t working hard on a second-gen speaker behind closed doors at Apple Park. We’ll be updating this article as news appears, so check back frequently for the latest Apple HomePod 2 gossip.