Apple has announced a new $299 HomePod smart speaker with a similar form factor to the original HomePod released in 2018. New features available with this second-generation model include support for the wireless protocol Thread and the smart home standard Matter, allowing the speaker to control compatible accessories, and an upgraded S7 chip first seen in the Apple Watch Series 7. It will be sold alongside the HomePod Mini, the smaller version of the speaker introduced in 2020. The new HomePod is available to order starting today and will begin shipping February 3rd.
The second-generation HomePod has a single four-inch woofer paired with five tweeters, (down from seven in the original model) and a total of five microphones (down from seven). Apple says the speaker can sense how it’s positioned in a room, adjusting its sound depending on whether it’s placed up against a wall or out in the middle of a space. Like the original HomePod, two speakers can be arranged into a stereo pair or used as speakers for the Apple TV 4K. There’s also support for spatial audio with Dolby Atmos.
The internals of the new HomePod. Image: Apple
New for this model are built-in temperature and humidity sensors that can be used as triggers for smart home automations. (There were reports that similar sensors were present in the HomePod Mini, but they’ve never been made available for consumer use.) There’s also support for handing off music like we saw with the HomePod Mini using Apple’s ultra wideband tech, and the speaker’s voice assistant, Siri, is able to recognize up to six different voices and provide personalized responses.
With a software update coming later this spring, Apple says the new HomePod will be able to use its built-in microphones to listen for smoke or carbon monoxide alarms and notify you if it hears anything via an iPhone.
The new model is a little shorter than the original HomePod by 0.2 inches and a little lighter at 5.16 pounds versus 5.5 pounds.
The original HomePod had an unusually rocky lifespan for an Apple product. Originally announced in 2017 with a December ship date, the $349 smart speaker was subsequently delayed to February 2018. When it was eventually released, the HomePod’s Siri fared poorly against Alexa and Google Assistant, and reviewers criticized how locked into Apple’s ecosystem the smart speaker was. Despite getting a $50 price cut in 2019, the HomePod was eventually discontinued in 2021.
As well as its cheaper price, the HomePod Mini also introduced support for Thread — a smart home protocol that subsequently became an integral part of the Matter spec. Like the new HomePod, the HomePod Mini can serve as a Matter smart home controller and Thread border router for the management of Matter devices across Thread, Wi-Fi, and ethernet networks.
The second-generation HomePod will be sold in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and 11 other markets, according to Apple. It’ll be available in either white or gray, with a “color-matched” power cable.