HomePod

HomePod and HomePod mini
Apple’s HomePod smart speakers: HomePod and HomePod mini.

Evolution and key features of breakthrough HomePod smart speakers

Apple redefined the audio experience with its smart speakers, HomePod and HomePod mini. Marvels of acoustic technology, the speakers boast high-fidelity sound, sleek designs and advanced features.

This article looks at the evolution of HomePod, exploring its features, and how it has become a staple for a variety of listeners.

Dawn of the HomePod era

The smart speaker’s journey began with its first-generation model, unveiled at Apple’s WWDC 2017. Apple officially released HomePod on February 9, 2018.

Many people lauded the unusual new smart speaker, a successor to the Beats Pill+, for its spectacular design and sound quality. But it faced criticism for its lack of third-party support and high price compared to other smart speakers. In any case, it sold more than 3 million units in its first year.

Apple launched a smaller version, HomePod mini, on November 16, 2020.

However, Apple discontinued first-generation of the speaker on March 12, 2021. That left only HomePod mini on sale. It sold better than its bigger sibling).

But Apple unveiled the second-generation full-sized HomePod on January 18, 2023, and hit the shelves on February 3. Some reviews said it’s the best smart speaker for any Apple-centric household.

What makes HomePod (2nd generation) so great?

The second-generation of the big speaker retained the sleek, cylindrical design of its predecessor but introduced new features that further enhanced its appeal. Let’s delve into the key attributes that make the HomePod an acoustic powerhouse.

The second-generation HomePod sports a rounded, cylindrical shape, cocooned in a 3D mesh fabric chosen for its excellent acoustic properties. Available in white and midnight colors, the smart speaker stands 6.6 inches tall and weighs 5.16 pounds. The larger backlit touch screen at the top of the HomePod enhances user interaction and visibility.

The crowning glory of the updated smart speaker? Superior sound quality. It houses a four-inch woofer and a five-tweeter array, providing listeners with a rich, immersive audio experience. The smart speaker leverages advanced computational audio, spatial awareness, and room-sensing technology to adjust the music in real time for the environment it is in.

And it proved far easier to repair than the original.

Siri integration and smart-home functionality

HomePod comes integrated with Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant. Siri can control the speaker and other HomeKit devices, conduct text messaging and voice calls from an iPhone, and provide access to Apple’s own platforms and technologies.

So the speaker can serves as a home hub, allowing for remote access to HomeKit devices. It also supports the Thread network protocol and can be used for home automation.

Connectivity and sensors: How do I set up a HomePod?

The smart speaker supports 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5. It also includes temperature and humidity sensors and an accelerometer, which adjusts the speaker’s sound in real time if you move it to a new location in the room.

The speaker runs on audioOS, a fork version of tvOS, known as HomePod Software.

So how do you set up a HomePod or HomePod mini? It’s easy. We’ll walk you through it.

How does the speaker protect your privacy?

A key feature of the speaker comes in its commitment to privacy. Apple designed it, in part, to protect your personal information.

It end-to-end encrypts all smart-home communications so no one can read them (not even Apple). And when you use the Siri voice assistant, the speaker does not store audio of the request.

Low environmental impact

Apple also designed its smart speakers to minimize its environmental impact.

Each speaker includes 100 percent recycled gold in the plating of multiple printed circuit boards and 100 percent recycled rare earth elements in the speaker magnet.

Today, Apple is carbon neutral for global corporate operations. By 2030, the company plans to be 100 percent carbon neutral across the entire manufacturing supply chain and all products

Pricing and availability

You can buy the full-sized HomePod smart speaker for $299, the same price as the discontinued original. HomePod mini costs $99.

Read Cult of Mac’s latest posts on HomePod:

How to get the latest HomePod software update

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HomePod How To
Here’s how to be sure you have the latest HomePod software update. Or stop your smart speaker from updating.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Your HomePod is a lot more than a simple speaker — it’s a whole computer. And like any computer it has an operating system that needs occasional updates. Here’s how to make sure your Apple smart speaker has the software version released on Tuesday.

Version 17.5 is a simple bug fix update. It’s still worth installing — keeping the HomePod on the same version number as your iPhone and Apple TV is recommended. 

If you depend on automatic updates, it’s possible your smart speaker hasn’t yet installed the update. Here’s how to do so manually.

Love Sonos speakers and soundbars? Here’s your chance to save big.

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Sonos Beam soundbar - Sonos refurbished speakers and soundbars
Sonos first-gen Beam soundbar at 25% off is one of the deals you can grab.
Photo: Sonos

A lot of folks love Apple audio products like HomePod speakers and AirPods earbuds. But another cherished audio brand is running a promotion right now you don’t want to miss. That would be 25% off Sonos refurbished speakers and soundbars, plus a couple of other primo deals. See the details below.

After all, we know Apple’s refurbs are good, so why not Sonos?

Apple continues plugging away at HomePod with large display

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HomePod with a larger Display concept
A HomePod with a larger touchscreen -- perhaps something like this concept -- is supposedly on the drawing board at Apple.
Concept: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple reportedly hasn’t given up on the idea of a HomePod smart speaker with a built-in display. It’s supposedly still in development in Cupertino.

There have been leaks and rumors of such a smart home device since at least 2021.

Day or night, you can’t go wrong with stereo HomePods [Setups]

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Dual HomePod MacBook Pro setup
The daytime photograph shows the treasured HomePods clearly.
Photo: aleksiralda@Reddit.com

Paired for stereo sound, two full-size HomePod smart speakers — the original or second generation — are a thing of auditory beauty. And they don’t just sound great, they look good, too. Yet we don’t see paired HomePods much in computer setups (HomePod minis yes, the big ones, no).

Today’s MacBook Pro setup takes full advantage of Apple audio, however, and the user couldn’t be happier. Well, except with Siri, that is. Check out their setup’s cheerful day version (above) and moody night version (below).

‘Small’ MacBook Pro rig punches well above its weight [Setups]

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MacBook Pro setup
Despite appearances, there's really a lot going on here.
Photo: dartiss@Reddit.com

Isn’t it great when someone on social media humbly displays a well put-together and complete computer setup that makes yours look like random debris? Well, at least it’s a good learning opportunity. And today’s MacBook Pro setup is an exceptional example, as it doesn’t look like “all that” — even though it is.

At a glance you might not guess that it packs about two dozen components, and the user is happy to explain how he uses most of them.

Apple may pay artists more to use Dolby Atmos

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Spatial audio with head tracking
Artists might profit more from mixing tunes with Dolby Atmos.
Photo: Apple

Apple plans to offer financial incentives to artists and record labels who mix songs using surround-sound Spatial Audio technology Dolby Atmos, sources close to the matter said Monday.

Greater weighting placed on those audio streams starting in 2024 will likely mean higher royalties paid out.

Alleged next-gen HomePod with LCD panel pops up in photos

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The big HomePod could be back soon. But how pricey and how functional will it be?
Apple's next HomePod could pack a LCD screen on top.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Alleged photos of a HomePod prototype with an LCD screen on top have surfaced online. They showcase the smart speaker with a big touch-based LCD panel on top.

Apple’s current-gen HomePod has a small touch surface on top for controlling music playback and volume.

Pick up HomePod 2 refurbished by Apple on the cheap

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Apple HomePod 2 in white and midnight
You don't have to pay full price to get the audio quality of HomePod 2.
Photo: Apple

Apple is now offering refurbished units of its second-generation full-size HomePod at 17% off the regular price. This new version offers high-quality audio and additional smart-home features

Buying refurbs from Apple is a popular way to save on used electronics that can be relied on.

Apple adds 100+ podcasts with improved access

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iOS 17 gives Apple Podcasts users a refreshed player and queue, episode art, search filters and the ability to connect subscriptions to top apps.
iOS 17 gives Apple Podcasts users a refreshed player and queue, episode art, search filters and the ability to connect subscriptions to top apps.
Photo: Apple

Now you can listen to more than 100 new podcasts from various apps and services in Apple Podcasts, the company said Tuesday.

“Subscribers to Apple Music, Apple News+ and participating apps like Calm and Lingokids can connect their subscriptions to access new shows and more,” Apple noted.

Sonos Move 2 speaker brings stereo sound, double the battery life

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In addition to the black or white options to match other Sonos speakers, you can get Move 2 in a new olive color.
In addition to the black or white options to match other Sonos speakers, you can get Move 2 in a new olive color.
Photo: Sonos

The revamped Sonos Move 2 portable speaker sports stereo sound, up to 24 hours of battery life — twice that of its predecessor — and a slew of design changes since the water-resistant speaker’s initial release four years ago, the company said Wednesday.

Sonos Move 2 becomes available September 20 for $449.

That’s one way to get 50% off a Studio Display [Setups]

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Can you spot the chip/crack in one of the displays?
Can you spot the chip/crack in one of the displays?
Photo: ryopang@Reddit.com

The owner of today’s MacBook Pro setup chose two Studio Displays over one Pro Display XDR to suit his workflow and because he realized he could bag one of the monitors at half price. Lucky him.

Several folks on social media noticed the damage, and some said they’d grab that deal, too, if they could.

Here come the replaceable iPhone batteries [The CultCast]

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An iPhone teardown and The CultCast logo (episode 600)
The EU plans to cram more changes down Apple's throat: This time's it's replaceable iPhone batteries.
Image: iFixit/Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: Those EU technocrats plan to force Apple (and everybody else) to make batteries in their devices easier to replace. The specifics remain vague. But is forcing changes to the iPhone and iPad design a good thing or a bad thing?

Also on The CultCast:

  • Apple gives us a peek at how the software sausage will be made for the upcoming Vision Pro headset. Looks promising!
  • Some of the features coming to the Photos app in iOS 17 work wonders. Others not so much.
  • HomePods are about to get a long-awaited feature — sort of.
  • The latest Mac sales data seems impossible to believe.

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

iPhone media apps can play music on HomePod using Siri with iOS 17

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The big HomePod could be back soon. But how pricey and how functional will it be?
Spotify is finally coming to HomePod but it relies on using your iPhone.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple finally plans to make playing music from third-party sources easier on HomePods. Starting with iOS 17, you can ask Siri to play music on your HomePod from music apps installed on your iPhone.

Despite Apple providing the necessary apps, only a handful of music streaming services natively support HomePod. This change from Apple in iOS 17 is an excellent workaround to this problem.

New Macs’ benchmarks blow us away [The CultCast]

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The Mac Studio specs make us swoon (and question the Mac Pro's raison d'être. We talk new Macs on our Apple podcast, The CultCast (episode 599).
The Mac Studio specs make us swoon (and question the Mac Pro's raison d'être).
Image: Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: The M2 Ultra chip gives the new Mac Studio and Mac Pro incredible powers, the first benchmarks show. And the new 15-inch MacBook Air doesn’t look too shabby, either. In fact, it seems like the ultimate Mac laptop for most people.

Also on The CultCast:

  • We’ve got a great travel charger from Ugreen in this week’s giveaway.
  • Erfon uncorks an update on the untimely death(?) and possible rebirth of his beloved original HomePod.

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

Apple might make a HomePod you activate just by looking at it

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Could the clue refer to a new version of the discontinued HomePod?
Apple is considering a glance-activated HomePod.
Photo: Apple

What if, instead of saying “Hey Siri” to activate your HomePod, you only had to glance at it? Apple is considering this possibility, and recently filed for a patent on it.

Whether this will become part of a future Apple smart speaker depends on whether it’s actually better than the current activation system.

Insiders are buzzing about Apple’s upcoming headset [The CultCast]

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CultCast 595: AI-generated image of Apple CEO Tim Cook wearing an AR/VR headset, along with the CultCast logo.
No, Apple's headset likely won't look like this AI-generated image.
Image: Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: Well-placed sources say Apple’s AR/VR headset blew them away. Even the guy who dreamed up the Oculus Rift says it’s great.

The more we hear about the device nobody seems to need, the more intrigued we become. And with WWDC23 just weeks away, we don’t have long to wait for answers to our questions. In the meantime, we can imagine the possibilities …

Also on The CultCast:

  • How Apple’s M3 chip will stack up against its predecessors.
  • Five hidden features in iMessage that you should try ASAP.
  • Erfon finally gives us an update on his beloved, but beleaguered, original HomePod.

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

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A HomePod with special skills + Tim Cook’s VR power play [The CultCast]

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AI-generated image of a HomePod smart speaker with an embedded display.
No, the next-gen HomePod isn't gonna look like this. AI can't do everything! (At least not yet.)
Image: Midjourney/Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: That old rumor about a HomePod with a built-in display for FaceTime calls and smart-home wizardry resurfaces. But this time, some fresh details make Erfon even more cranked up than usual about Apple’s smart speaker.

Also on The CultCast:

  • It sounds like Tim Cook pulled a power move on Apple’s design team to make sure the company foists an expensive AR/VR headset on the masses sooner rather than later. Who’s excited? Show of hands?!?
  • Apple TV+ racks up another Oscar, and Erfon is almost intrigued enough to resubscribe. (Especially if his “get three months free” trick works again.)
  • The baton’s about to wave on Apple Music Classical. We’re all quivering with excitement!

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

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Apple working on a HomePod with 7-inch display for 2024

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HomePod with a 7-inch display concept
Apple has a HomePod-branded smart display in the works.
Concept: Rajesh/Cult of Mac

Apple could launch its first smart display as soon as next year. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple is preparing a HomePod with a 7-inch display for H1 2024.

Launching a smart display under the HomePod branding is seemingly a part of Apple’s new smart home strategy.

Sorry, HomePod! Sonos speakers add Apple Music’s spatial audio.

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The new Sonos Era 300 features a new look and support for Apple Music's spatial audio.
The new Sonos Era 300 features a new look and support for Apple Music's spatial audio.
Photo: Sonos

Alongside the release of its new Era 300 and Era 100 speakers, Sonos said Tuesday it will “add support for spatial audio on Apple Music in what will be a significant expansion of its next-gen sound experience offerings.”

The company said customers can access spatial audio on Apple Music via the Era 300 and two older Sonos speaker systems starting in three weeks — Tuesday, March 28 (the new speakers’ shipping date).

iOS 16.4’s best new features and an iPhone security hack you need ASAP [The CultCast]

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Coming Soon in iOS 16.4: CultCast title page.
Join us for a rundown of what you can expect in iOS 16.4.
Image: Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: iOS 16.4 doesn’t look earth-shattering or anything, but there are some cool new features coming.

Also on The CultCast:

  • You need to toggle this switch on your iPhone ASAP so thieves don’t ruin your life.
  • Working for Apple’s secret Exploratory Design Group sounds like a dream job.
  • We’re giving away a very fancy backpack from Harber London.
  • Erfon put his new HomePod stereo pair to the test in a head-to-head audio smackdown with the originals. The results are … disappointing.
  • Windows users get a little taste of iMessage goodness. But just a taste!

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

HomePod 2: Does it sound better or worse than the original?

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Erfon Elijah comparing the new HomePod (left) to the original (right).
Erfon puts the new HomePod (left) head to head with the original (right). And I must say, I love the shirt.
Photo: Erfon Elijah

The CultCast host Erfon Elijah finally got our hands on the coveted HomePod 2 speakers. He put the 2023 model head-to-head with the 2018 model the way it’s meant to be enjoyed: in a stereo pair.

The new HomePod comes loaded with new features: smart home connectivity, a brighter top panel, a U1 chip, temperature and humidity sensors … but the big question is, how does it sound?

New Sonos Era smart speakers take direct aim at HomePod

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The Sonos Era 300 is the larger and better-equipped of the two new smart speakers.
The Sonos Era 300 is the larger and better-equipped of the two new smart speakers.
Photo: Sonos

A new leak indicates Sonos will release its new Sonos Era 100 and 300 smart speakers in March with a slew of features that challenge Apple’s recently relaunched HomePod.

Of the two new Sonos speakers, the pricier Era 300 features a version of spatial audio. Both support Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and USB-C line-in for versatile connectivity. The Era 100 is likely to replace the much-liked Sonos One, launched in 2017.

HomePod 2 teardown reveals it’s far easier to repair than the original

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HomePod 2 teardown reveals it's far easier to repair than the original
Disassembling a HomePod 2 requires a screwdriver, not a saw.
Screenshot: iFixit/Creative Electron

A teardown video from iFixit shows that getting into the recently launched HomePod 2 is dramatically easier than opening up its predecessor. That’s going to make repairing the new smart speaker far simpler.

The video is an interesting deep dive for anyone who just wants a glimpse inside the latest HomePod.

Will new HomePod dazzle our ears like the original? We hope so. [The CultCast]

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Two HomePods and the logo for
We've got our ears all cleaned out and ready to listen.
Image: Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: The first reviews of the 2023 HomePod make Apple’s updated smart speaker sound pretty formidable. We can’t wait to hear for ourselves. (Unfortunately, if you didn’t already place your HomePod order, you’re probably looking at a substantial hang time.)

Also on The CultCast:

  • An iPad with a folding screen might be just around the corner.
  • Retina alert: Apple Watch Ultra might get an even bigger, brighter screen next year.
  • Former Apple design chief Jony Ive’s latest creation is … a bright red nose!

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

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