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A new HomePod is coming – and it could have 1 VERY useful function!

Rumours are rife from all angles that Apple will be releasing a new HomePod later this year. There have also been some changes made to home hub…

HomePod
graphics courtesy of author

A welcome return for HomePod

I was not one of the lucky ones who bought the original HomePod. By all accounts, I missed out.

In essence, these two speakers are very similar, however, actually produce different, end-user experiences. For starters, the newer, HomePod mini, was one-third of the price of the HomePod when both were available. Similarities include the ability for multi-room audio, stereo pairing and a Siri upward facing display.

The major differences between the two, however, are the chips and, in particular, the speaker set-up. Obviously, at their core, these are speakers, so will be judged on their audio. HomePod mini is often criticised for its sound, but in fairness, it was never going to be able to offer the same audio ‘punch’.

Speakers & Chips

HomePod internals
courtesy MacRumours

HomePod mini only comes equipped with a three-microphone array, whereas HomePod was packed with spatial awareness and a six microphone array. Moreover, HomePod was very nearly twice the height at just under 7–inches. This extra size allowed for more internal components, more air, and thus a more immersive audio experience.

The mini has only one full-range driver. It still manages to deliver pretty decent bass, though, as a result of a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators. By comparison, the original HomePod had an Apple designed woofer and numerous tweeters.

The now obsolete HomePod had the chip from iPhone 6 – the A8. HomePod mini has the newer, S5 chip, lifted straight from Apple Watch Series 5.

The U1 chip is what makes HomePod mini unique. This ultra-wideband chip is responsible for detecting other U1 devices nearby. The U1 can be found in iPhone 12 and 13 and also Apple Watch Series 6 & 7. It is this chip-set that makes handoff works so well between the mini and these devices.

Currently, that is the sole (albeit super-useful) application for the U1 chip. Other uses are possible in the future, though, such as AR experiences and data-transfer.

The lack of supply is creating nostalgia

HomePod
courtesy MacRumours

HomePod was discontinued last March. It was originally sold for $349, although reduced to $299 less than a year later. Everyone always complained it was too expensive, compared to other voice-assistant speakers. Those complaints lead to it being taken from our shelves. However, it left such a void, that prices are currently trending up on eBay. New, factory-sealed HomePods have an average price of around $640.

If you are going to sell one, though, now may be a good time to do so, as the market looks likely to change soon.

The word on the street

HomePod - project B620
graphics courtesy of author

If I wanted to go all secret agent on you, I would tell you that Apple are reported to be working on project B620. To you and me – that’s a HomePod! The ever reliable Mark Gurman has reported that the new speaker will far closer resemble the original HomePod, rather than the mini. It’s expected to be around the same 8–inches in height, have the S8 chip that the Series 8 watch will run, and deliver similar audio quality to the much-missed ‘OG’ HomePod.

The screen on top could be mounted on a robotic arm, and support further multitouch functionality. Other updates could also include bringing the U1 chip to the speaker as Apple re-think their smart home strategy. The suggestions of a radically combined version of HomePod & Apple TV including a FaceTime camera, have gone quiet, though.

As to when this speaker might drop, is open to debate. Gurman is slating it for next year, whereas Ming-Chi Kou suggests it could be as early as the last quarter of this year.

Although it may be tough to decide precisely upon the direction Apple will eventually take, it would seem something is occurring in their home entertainment space and soon!

And that may fit neatly in to the next bit of news doing the rounds…

Home hub is changing

iOS 16 & HomeKit
graphics courtesy of author

Although a little confusing, the headline news at least, is that iPad will no longer be a supported device to act as a HomeKit hub.

Based on code findings within the soon-to-be released iOS 16, it would seem iPad has been dropped as an option to run your HomeKit. But in a statement to The Verge, Apple has said that is incorrect.

In a very craftily phrased release, they state you can still use iPad in this way – “with no loss of functionality; however, you won’t get any new functionality either”! Make of that what you will!

Further on in the ever so Apple-esque press release, they mention that if you decide to run an iPad as a home hub, you won’t benefit from the new ‘architecture’.

That architecture would include changes that enable faster and more reliable communication with HomeKit accessories. Not only that, but as more Matter accessories come to market, they too will not be able to be used via the iPad.

The benefit of a HomeKit home hub, is that it offers the ability to remotely control accessories at home, whilst not directly connected to their network. Home hubs are also in charge of running automations on schedule, and enable features such as HomeKit Secure Video for recording motion on supported cameras.

What was the problem with iPad then?

IPad
graphics courtesy of author

Basically, for a while now, iPad was seen as the most unreliable option as a home hub, due to the fact it was not always plugged in and left at home. The fact it was a mobile device, meant that the constant un-connecting from the network, hindered its reliability.

So, what are the best options to use as a home hub then? Well, my friends, that would be something that is always connected to your network, and never leaves the house.

Have you guessed yet what Apple’s preferred options of a home hub are? Yup – Apple TV and ta-da… HomePods!

Wrapping-up

HandOff to HomePod
courtesy Apple

Apple doesn’t tend to do things by happen-chance or mistake.

The fact that these home hub changes are coming with iOS 16 and all these rumours about a new, larger HomePod, it seems Apple’s focus is squarely on home entertainment and their HomeKit. The timing seems perfect.

So, let’s dream for a moment, if the new HomePod is to become a reality, what would you want to see from it? Did you own an original HomePod, and, was the audio as good as I’ve been told? Is there any single function you’d like from a new HomePod? And, are you an avid HomeKit user – tell me more!

One thing is for sure, if they do release a new one, I will not be making the same mistake again. Nope, this time I will be at the front of the queue to buy one. And, if I do get one…guess what? You’ll be reading about it here!

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