HomePod 2: Apple resurrects full-size smart speaker, adds new features

Apple resurrects full-size HomePod with hot new features, same old price

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Apple resurrects full-size HomePod with hot new features, same old price
The full-size HomePod is back!
Photo: Apple

Apple unveiled HomePod 2 on Wednesday, bringing its full-size smart speaker back from the dead. The new model offers high-quality audio and new smart-home features, but comes in at the same price as its predecessor.

“With the popularity of HomePod mini, we’ve seen growing interest in even more powerful acoustics achievable in a larger HomePod. We’re thrilled to bring the next generation of HomePod to customers around the world,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing, in a press release.

HomePod 2 offers better sound than Apple’s smaller smart speaker

The first-generation HomePod debuted in 2018, and received equal parts praise for its audio quality and criticism for its $349 price. A drop to $299 did little to raise interest in the product, so Apple discontinued the HomePod in 2021.

The second-generation HomePod launched today at $299, and comes with the same general design as the original. It will produce top-quality audio, according to Apple, despite the fact that the new speaker apparently cuts a few corners on hardware.

“Leveraging our audio expertise and innovations, the new HomePod delivers rich, deep bass, natural mid-range, and clear, detailed highs,” promised Joswiak.

Apple said “a custom-engineered high-excursion woofer, powerful motor that drives the diaphragm a remarkable 20mm, built-in bass-EQ mic, and beamforming array of five tweeters around the base all work together to achieve a powerful acoustic experience.”  The new HomePod runs on Apple’s S7 chip that first appeared in Apple Watch Series 7.

By comparison, the original HomePod included seven tweeters, six microphones and a high-excursion woofer. It ran on Apple’s A8 chip, which powered the iPhone 6.

Many features first appeared in the original HomePod

Apple HomePod 2 internal configuration
The extra size makes room for tech not possible in the HomePod mini.
Photo: Apple

Just as with the original HomePod, room-sensing technology in the HomePod 2 uses echoes to tell if it’s against a wall or freestanding. It then parses that data to optimize its audio output in real time.

Two or more HomePods can be combined into a stereo pair, although the speakers must be of the same generation. Multiple HomePods of various generations can be used to create whole-house audio. Plus, all Apple smart speakers pair easily with an Apple TV set-top box, of course.

Like its predecessors, the new HomePod comes wrapped in acoustically transparent mesh fabric. The top consists of a backlit touch surface that illuminates edge to edge. And, after a looming software update, bringing an iPhone near a second-gen HomePod will enable the user to hand off whatever is playing on the handset to the speaker, whether music or podcast. (HomePod mini and the original HomePod offer similar Handoff functionality.)

Home-automation extras

For fans of Apple’s HomeKit home-automation system, the speaker includes a new built-in temperature and humidity sensor. This allows users to create automations that, for instance, close the blinds or turn on a fan automatically when a certain temperature is reached in a room. (The HomePod mini, which Apple released in 2020, contains the same sort of sensor, although the company never activated it for some reason. That likely will change soon.)

With a new Sound Recognition feature that first appeared on iPhone, the second-gen HomePod can listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If it hears one, it can send a notification directly to the user’s iPhone.

The HomePod 2 is available to order online and in the Apple Store app starting today. Apple says it will start reaching customers beginning Friday, February 3. The new smart speaker comes in white and midnight colors.

Apple likely brought HomePod back after a market for the discontinued model sprang up. But that hasn’t been the only option for Apple fans who want a smart speaker. The HomePod mini costs just $99.

Source: Apple