David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio
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What plans for HomePod? The 1st and STILL the best?

Apple has a heritage in audio, yet their home speaker set up has been lacking over recent years…but that may be about to change, as they have plans for HomePod

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I’m a fan

Sometimes, I think I am just, plain odd. I never had problems with the butterfly keyboard. I was a bit of a fan of the Touchbar, oh, and I don’t mind the sound of the HomePod mini.

As a poster boy for Apple, any of those above three claims, could easily have me carted off to the Cupertino correction centre – but d’ems just da facts! I am not here to say Apple never gets it wrong. Auto-switching on AirPod Pro is infuriating, and as for the charging point on the magic mouse…don’t get me started. But on the whole, they do deliver products I enjoy using, and resonate with me.

Late to the party

My love with Apple home audio, only started early this year. My daughter decided I needed more speakers at home, apparently, and so I received my first HomePod mini at Christmas.

It took me a month or two of playing around with locations, but now I think it is delivering for me on a daily basis.

Having played with it in the bedroom, kitchen and office, it now lives in under the TV with a second mini. Both of these are hooked up to my Apple TV 4K to deliver, quality, stereo sound. I had been using a Sony sound bar until then, but the switch over to HomePods has been – well, music to my ears.

It was a case of two, will always beat one. Yeah, the Sony system does have a remote bass box that sits behind the sofa, and that wins out in that one area. But a single bar can never offer the stereo effect of a pair of well spaced out speakers. And for all there is plenty of negativity about the sonic delivery of the HomePod mini’s, I’ll defend them.

They perform, impressively enough, across the range as to not offend. Sure, due to their dimensions, they do suffer at the low end, but as for the mids and treble, they are an easy listen. Delivering clear & present speech, and not too painful around the 6000Hz – 7000Hz, sibilant, more present sounds.

So, all in, I am a fan – which is handy, as there seems plenty is planned this year for Apple audio.

Not gonna miss out this time

The reign of the original HomePod spanned from February 2018 – March 2021. Although criticised for the hefty $350 price tag at launch, the one area for which it received universal praise, was its audio.

The original HomePod runs an A8 chip, the same as found in iPhone 6, making it more than 8 years old now. Despite its age, demand is at an all-time high. A factory-fresh, unboxed OG HomePod is currently fetching around $450-$550 on eBay.

This clamour, seems to have prompted Apple in to audio action, with four potential speaker solutions under review at Apple Park.

The word on the street

The Home app is coming in to ever sharper focus at Apple. At the core of any smart home, and the Home app, is a hub. Latterly, an iPad could be used as a hub, but that device is now being phased out. Apple is more keen to have a device that is always left at home, to be the epicentre of your smart home. And the two devices that fit the mould perfectly, are Apple TV and HomePods.

Looking to spread out around the home yet further, Apple are reported to be looking at a couple of very intriguing devices.

Mark Gurman, from Bloomberg, reported this weekend that Apple are looking into a kitchen-based speaker. This would apparently combine your iPad along with a speaker and some kind of robotic arm. I’d guess the purpose of this HomePod would be to offer you the functionality to pull up recipes etc. on a larger screen, whilst cooking. That and may be to better utilise FaceTime calls as well, whilst hands are busy elsewhere.

In another first, reported by Gurman, Apple seems to also be looking into the idea of a living-room, home entertainment system. This would combine the HomePod speaker, along with Apple TV and a camera. I can’t quite picture how that would look, but, the concept, I like a lot.

The main event

So, whilst those ideas are being floated about, possibly with a release date of late 2023, or early 2024, two more imminent releases could be an improved HomePod mini and a brand-new HomePod.

It’s hard to know what improvements could come to HomePod mini, if it is to retain the same form factor. One area, that looks likely to be improved, though, is the Bluetooth connectivity. An all-new 5.2 codec has just been released. This will not only benefit HomePod mini, but the entire range of Apple devices, including AirPod Pro 2, which are due out this fall. Will this be the key to unlocking Lossless Audio to HomePod and AirPod alike?

As for the new, full-sized HomePod, this is currently under development. With a codename of B620, it is going to inherit the latest chip from Apple Watch – the S8. Gurman is not alone in predicting that there will be few cosmetic changes, to the original HomePod, though.

In a Tweet from May, Ming-Chi Kuo stated, that Apple would double-down on the home-speaker market, in 4Q22-1Q23, as they further decide on this essential part of the smart home set up.

Knowing that the audio was never an issue for HomePod, there is no need to greatly alter anything there. And even the price point is not now as important, as they have the HomePod mini as it’s lower priced wing-man.

Wrapping up

I am a long way from having anything resembling a smart home, but adding to my smart home kit, with HomePods, can only be a good thing.

I am not buying them with that in mind, that is just a happy coincidence. No, I am buying them because I now have a use for them, and they sound good around the home. I had been thinking of buying a third for the kitchen, but it would seem now, as if I should wait a few weeks.

Come the fall, we will find out what the future of Apple Audio is to be. If, as rumoured, it includes a new HomePod, then I will be at the front of the queue.

I missed out last time, with the original HomePod – lightning will not strike twice, I assure you.

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