The new HomePod is basically the old HomePod – with new hope

2 weeks ago 25

Apple still manages the occasional surprise, and yesterday was an interesting example. Almost two years after discontinuing the original HomePod, Apple launched a new HomePod.

Or, rather, it basically re-released the original HomePod, at the same price the company was last charging for the discontinued model …

Meet the new HomePod – same as the old HomePod

Sure, there are a few differences between old and new models.

On the plus side, the display – while no smarter or more useful – is bigger. The computational audio is said to be slightly improved, likely thanks to the more powerful S7 chip replacing the A8. And it gets a sprinkling of smart home features, namely a temperature sensor, humidity sensor, and (later) sound recognition – as well as a U1 chip and support for the Matter smart home standard.

On the downside, seven tweeters have been replaced by five, and six microphones by four. Apple will doubtless say the better processing makes up for this, but these are likely cost-cutting measures to make the $299 pricing workable over the original $349. Or, put another way, to make up for the $50 discount Apple had to offer to try to boost sales.

But, honestly, this is just a minor update to the original.

Seems odd, but I think it may work

On the face of it, that’s a very, very odd thing to do:

Launch a product for $349 Find it doesn’t sell very well Discount it to $299 Find it still doesn’t sell very well Discontinue it Wait almost two years Launch essentially the same product, at the same price

But… one thing has changed in the interim. Namely, a lot of people have bought a lot of HomePod minis. I suspect from this, they may have learned three things.

First, the admittedly limited smarts of Apple’s smart speakers are not really the point. As I’ve long said, HomePods are speakers first, and smart devices only as a minor bonus.

Second, multi-room audio is great! This has traditionally been a relatively expensive undertaking, but the HomePod mini made it affordable. I’m guessing that the majority of HomePod mini sales were to people buying more than one speaker for more than one room.

Three, the audio quality of the HomePod mini is… well, pretty much what you’d expect from a $100 speaker.

So my theory about Apple’s thinking is this…

Lots of people are now totally sold on multi-room audio, and found that the limited smarts are kind of irrelevant. Having enjoyed the benefits, but also experienced the limited audio quality, they are now willing to spend more on the same benefits with much better sound.

As my colleague Chance Miller wrote last year, HomePod was a product whose true value became clear to many only after it was discontinued.

Three years later, I’m starting to wonder if we might have taken the original HomePod for granted. It was a niche product, sure, but now that there’s no clear replacement on the market, it’s clear that it served a specific use case very well.

Both of us suggested that Apple should relaunch it. (Admittedly, we were both 50 bucks out on the price.)

Well, the company now has. We’ll of course have to wait to see whether it was the right decision, but I’m feeling optimistic – how about you? Please take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments.

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