As votes of confidence in a product go, discontinuing one isn’t great. Yet that’s the fate that befell the full-size HomePod in March 2021, when Apple decided that the dinky version — somewhat unoriginally named the HomePod mini — was in a better position to put Siri on bookshelves around the world.
But Apple may be planning another stab at a speaker for big sound later this year if analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is to be believed. And generally speaking, given his excellent track record, he should be.
“Apple would [sic.] release a new version of HomePod in 4Q22-1Q23, and there may not be much innovation in hardware design,” he tweeted.
Granted, that could just be another Homepod mini, but given Kuo still had ten characters left over in his tweet, I imagine he’d have said “mini” if he meant “mini”.
“Smart speakers are undoubtedly one of the essential elements of the home ecosystem, but I think Apple is still figuring out how to succeed in this market,” he continued.
Far be it from me — a freelance writer with a decent, if unspectacular, turnover — to give a US$3 trillion company advice, but it would seem to me there are two things holding the HomePod back from the kind of world domination that Apple has come to expect from its products.
The first is pretty easy to rectify given Apple’s aforementioned Scrooge McDuck quantities of money. The original HomePod was just too expensive, coming in at a massive US$350 (~NZ$540) — or US$150 (~NZ$232) more than Amazon’s flagship Echo Studio. Given the HomePod mini costs NZ$159 (yes, it finally showed up in New Zealand!), it does seem that Apple has absorbed this lesson to some degree, painful as it no doubt was. Price wise, it’s in the same postcode as Amazon’s entry-level Echo Dot, if not quite the right ballpark.
The second problem, however, is tougher to fix and even harder to sugarcoat: it’s tough when the virtual assistant that puts the ‘smart’ in ‘smartspeaker’ is a bit dim. Siri was quite impressive when it debuted in the iPhone 4s back in 2011, but the intervening decade hasn’t been kind, and it has fallen some way behind the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant.
Hopefully Apple as a whole is working on both of these problems. If so, there’s no reason why HomePod can’t be every bit as ubiquitous as the Mac or iPad. Or at least as common as Apple TV, at any rate.