In 2018, Apple announced and launched the HomePod smart speaker, the HomePod Mini came in 2020, the original was discontinued in 2021, the Mini remained in the range. In Hungary, the product category is not officially distributed, this will not change for the time being, the 2023 second generation HomePod was not included in the domestic webshop of the American brand, so anyone who wants to buy one has to import it through Germany, for example. In the United States, the speaker costs 299 dollars, in the EU Apple charges 349 euros for it, which corresponds to 138,000 forints at today’s exchange rate. The second-generation HomePod announced in the press release is available for pre-order now, available from February 3, in the markets of Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, the USA, the UK and will arrive in eleven others.
To use the device, you need an iPhone running iOS 16.3 or an iPad running iPadOS 16.3, but according to the small print, the first generation HomePod or HomePod Mini will not be able to speak in stereo with the new generation, two identical types are required to use the function. The HomePod Mini will remain in Apple’s lineup alongside the new speaker.
The second generation HomePod. (source: Apple) [+]
New features of the second-generation HomePod include the S7 system chip used by the Apple Watch Series 7, support for the Thread wireless protocol and the Matter smart home protocol, with which the speaker can be used as a base or router. The cylindrical shape has remained and the size has been reduced to a minimum (the new one is 168 mm high, 142 mm wide, 2.3 kg heavy), as well as the white and black color, and the interactive touch surface for control on top. A 4″ high-displacement (20 mm) woofer, five horn-shaped tweeters with their own neodymium magnet, arranged in a block, and a total of five microphones are responsible for sound production. Among the latter, there is also one tuned to the subwoofer, calibrated for low frequencies, which is used by the device for automatic bass correction. The first-generation HomePod worked with seven tweeters and seven microphones, but according to Apple, with improved software and more powerful hardware, the new generation is capable of better real-time calibration and clearer music sound. The location recognition remained in the device, so it detects from the reflected sounds where it is in the room, adjusting its voice accordingly. The speaker can also be connected to a second-generation or newer Apple TV 4K device as an audio output (eARC) for all connected devices, and Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio support are new. What remains is that you can connect several HomePods and use them in stereo or in several rooms (AirPlay multiroom audio).
Internal structure of the speaker. (source: Apple) [+]
What’s new is that the HomePod has built-in temperature and humidity sensors, plus a UWB chip, so all you have to do is hold the iPhone close to the speaker and the phone can immediately transmit the sound to the speaker via the Apple Music player. Plus, if someone forgets where they left their phone, you can ask the HomePod via Siri to play a sound on the misplaced mobile phone, and the HomePod will also connect to the Apple Locator network. With the help of the thermometer and the humidity sensor, automations can be set with the connected smart home devices, such as lowering the blinds or starting the heating and air conditioning if the values fall below/above a certain level. With Siri, you can also set automations that start with a voice command, for example “Good morning / Good evening” and a new addition to these is that the HomePod now gives voice feedback when it has started or stopped a connected device in another room. According to Apple, the environmental sounds (forest, ocean, rain) have been reworked and can be assigned to different scenarios.
HomePod can also be used as the center of a smart home if you have an iPhone. (source: Apple) [+]
Siri uses four microphones and can recognize six different sounds, to which it gives a personalized reaction. According to its promise, in an upcoming software update, Apple will also enable the HomePod to recognize the sounds of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, which will be able to send notifications to connected iPhones if it detects an active alarm. The latter and the function using temperature and humidity sensors will also be available on HomePod Mini devices with the update, since the small speakers also have all the necessary hardware for their use, so far it has been limited by the software. The update is due around April.
A phone equipped with a U1 chip (iPhone 11 or newer) is required for automatic transfer. (source: Apple) [+]
HomePod can still only work with direct current, for which Apple includes a wall adapter and cable in the box. The device uses two-channel Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) for the Internet connection, and the Bluetooth version is 5.0. Music is automatically played via the Apple Music streaming service, but you can also play the sound of items purchased on iTunes or other streaming services. TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Audacy are used for radio, and Apple Podcasts is the default for listening to podcasts.