Wednesday, Jan 18, 2023, 19:00 Hardware

Apple Debuts The New HomePod – The Return Of Apple's Largest Smart Speaker

Only one day after the release of the Mac mini M2 and the MacBook Pro with M2 Pro and M2 Max and we already have another hardware announcement. It seems as if Kuo's prediction last year hit its mark, as Apple has just released a new generation of the HomePod. The model is designated as the "HomePod (second generation)" – making it thus not a successor to the HomePod mini, but rather to the classic HomePod smart speaker released in February 2018. The design also differs from that of the HomePod mini, which looks like a tiny bullet, and is most reflective of the original model. Only the top of the device's surface reveals any visual changes.



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A Striking Resemblance To The Classic HomePod
The second generation HomePod's description mostly corresponds to that of the first HomePod. Furthermore, multiple HomePods can be chained, to provide the best possible surround sound setup – or to use two separate HomePods as a stereo pair. Siri-service remains a central product element, and Apple has also placed special emphasis on improved Smart Home feature integration including Support for "Matter". There are other differences with the second generation, with only the newest model supporting ultra-wideband. The new HomePod can also detect smoke and carbon monoxide alarms using noice detection, sending a notification to the owner's iPhone. Additionally, a new sensor measures temperature and humidity.

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Also A Few Regressions
The number of integrated appears to have decreased from 7 to 5 – the same applies for Siri microphones, of which only 4 remain. Apple also took a step backwards when it comes to the WiFi connection, whilst the 2018 HomePod came with the 802.11ac with MIMO standard, the second generation is equipped with the significantly older 802.11n.



Price & Availability, iOS 16.3 Required – Store:
The HomePod can already be ordered today, with deliveries in the US starting on February 3rd. In the United States, the device costs US$299, whilst the citizens of 21 European countries to receive the device first will have to pay €345 – largely due to the Euro's weakened exchange rate in comparison to the dollar.

The smart speaker requires a device with at least iOS 16.3, serving as an official confirmation from Apple that the update to iOS 16.2 is soon to release. In Apple's press release concerning Black History Month, the official timeframe for this was also revealed and the upcoming system updates are set to release next week.

HomePod mini – €109 vs €99 In Europe & Sensor Update For All
Given the current strength of the dollar, with the current exchange rate being US$1.08 to €1, the price of the HomePod mini in Europe has increased from €109 to €99. However, there is good news for customers and owners of the device in both the United States and Europe: the mini smart speaker, that has always come with a CO2/smoke alarm and temperature and humidity sensors, will now be support these features with iOS 16.3 next week. The corresponding sensors, already in the device, have yet to be activated or supported on the software side.



A Brave Move
It will be exciting to see whether or not Apple finds more success this go around than last time with the HomePod, especially when the price remains the same. For many customers, the price alone was a considerable factor in the device's low sales numbers – in addition to Siri's questionable reliability. Apple discontinued the first generation in the beginning of 2021 due to lack of success with the product. According to the serial numbers, Apple sold so few devices that by 2021, the initial production batch was still in stock. The device remains more attractive in the USA due to the US$299 price (vs the original HomePod's US$349 price tag), which may make it more marketable.

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