Earlier this week, Apple gave its Beats Pill+ speaker the OG HomePod treatment and changed its status from a “product that remains in our lineup” to finally discontinued. Finally, because there was never any real change to the Bluetooth speaker from 2015 unless you really like red. Meanwhile, Apple has conceded to market to competition that use Apple’s own wireless audio technology.
A hot start
Beats sold two sizes of Bluetooth speakers when Apple bought the hardware and streaming music business almost eight years ago. The iconic Beats Pill was by far the most popular, and who doesn’t love the Beats Dude speaker holder? Beats also sold a much beefier and pricier portable speaker called Beats Pill XL. I loved mine, but then it was recalled due to a potential fire hazard. Existing Pill XL speakers were turned into Apple Store gift cards when returned.
Apple officially acquired Beats in August 2014, then the Beats Pill+ debuted a year later in October. Replacing the inherited Beats Pill, the new Pill+ was a sonic upgrade and featured a Lightning port for charging before Beats headphones followed. Available in black or white, the Beats app let you pair two Pill+ speakers together to either create a stereo or to amplify your audio. It also featured a USB-A port for charging out using the internal battery.
If one were to imagine a revised version of the Beats Pill+, a few upgrades come to mind. First, a larger version — Beats Pill Max anyone? Apple also started shifting from USB-A to USB-C around this time with the 12-inch MacBook and 2016 MacBook Pro.
Apple also released a new wireless audio technology in 2018. AirPlay 2 was a major upgrade to Apple’s wifi-based streaming audio tech, and Apple promised lots of third-party integration. Lots of brands were on board and shipped products, and Libratone even added AirPlay 2 to its existing portable Bluetooth speaker that year.
One brand committed to supporting AirPlay 2, according to Apple, was Beats! We’re still waiting for the first Beats product with AirPlay 2 to be announced, although we’ve stopped holding our breath.
Sonos or bust
Fortunately, there is one Beats Pill+ category of product with Bluetooth and AirPlay 2! It’s just made by Sonos. Priced at $179, the Sonos Roam is very portable, works over Bluetooth, and supports AirPlay 2 over Wi-Fi. There’s even wireless charging support! Sonos is known for its multi-room audio support since before Apple’s HomePod, and Bluetooth speakers are rather new to its lineup. There’s even a bigger, beefier version called the Sonos Move. The best part is these Bluetooth/AirPlay 2 portable speakers feature voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Last year we saw Apple discontinue its original HomePod with a promise to focus instead on the smaller, cheaper HomePod mini. My guess is Apple has no appetite for creating its own portable Bluetooth/AirPlay 2 speaker with Siri voice control as an entry in the HomePod line. Still, I would totally buy a HomePod Go for a similar price to the Sonos Roam!
Besides, we’re primarily talking about the Beats brand within Apple. Could there be an appetite to actually release a new Bluetooth/AirPlay 2 speaker from the brand? I’m not super positive on the prospect given how much streamlining Apple has done to the Beats hardware line in recent months.
It would still be a cool product, though, and Beats headphones already feature Apple chips that support Siri voice control from a paired device. One can dream.
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