By Chand Bellur
April 13, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. PDT
- The HomePod’s small form factor and surprisingly rich bass impressed audiophiles around the world.
- Apple’s HomePod uses a microphone array to assess the listening environment and adjust sound — a concept known as spatial awareness.
- Rumors suggest that Apple is refreshing the HomePod with advanced features and a lower price.
New HomePod Half Size of Original
Apple is obsessed with miniaturization. The iPhone, iPad, and MacBook have all slimmed down over the years. Apple was so obsessed with making things smaller, they introduced a deeply flawed keyboard mechanism into the entire MacBook lineup. The butterfly keyboard went through three iterations before Apple revisited a more reliable scissor mechanism. It took years for Apple to back down from this design.
The HomePod is one of those Apple products that few take seriously. When it first launched in 2018, it impressed critics with a rich, full bass sound coming from a small speaker. The single unit projected a fantastic stereo image anywhere in the room.
Spatial awareness is central to the HomePod’s design. A six-microphone array detects how music sounds in the room, making adjustments for superior audio quality. Seven tweeters placed equidistantly apart project sound throughout the room. At the time of launch, it was the smartest smart speaker on the planet, at least in terms of audio playback.
The device employs an innovative 4″ woofer with a high excursion driver. Critics suspected that the 4″ woofer was too small to produce rich bass. The woofer’s motor, however, generates enough force to produce surprisingly deep tones.
Rumors suggest that Apple’s newest HomePod will only be half the size of the original. It will feature the same rich sound, spatial awareness, automatic pairing with other HomePods, and continued support for Siri.
New HomePod to Support Third-Party Music Services
The HomePod faced two main problems. At $399, the price was much higher than competing smart speakers. Apple eventually reduced the price to $299; however, consumers still preferred cheaper models with more capable digital assistants than Siri. Interoperability was another issue. As it stands, the HomePod only offers native support for Apple Music. All other music services must be beamed to the HomePod using AirPlay.
Before the new HomePod rumor surfaced, reports suggested that Apple would open the smart speaker to third-party music services, such as Spotify. Now it appears, this is not only true, but the HomePod will see a refresh.
It’s not clear whether the future, smaller HomePod will be a light version of the device, or a replacement. Apple excels at putting big technology in small packages. However, if the rumor is correct and the new HomePod is about half the size as the original, deep, rich bass will be problematic. They may be able to augment power for the high excursion woofer. Perhaps the device is shorter, yet retains the same width and depth? At this point, the future HomePod is just conjecture and rumors. Only time, and more rumors, will tell us what the device has to offer.