New HomePod breathes new life into Apple’s smart home aspirations

Apple on Wednesday announced HomePod (2nd generation), a powerful new smart speaker that delivers next-level acoustics in a gorgeous, iconic design for just $299. Packed with Apple innovations and Siri intelligence, HomePod offers advanced computational audio for a groundbreaking listening experience, including support for immersive Spatial Audio tracks.

To easily control what’s playing or receive personalized song and podcast recommendations, anyone in the home can bring an iPhone close to HomePod and suggestions will surface automatically.
Apple’s new 2nd generation HomePod

With convenient new ways to manage everyday tasks and control the smart home, users can now create smart home automations using Siri, get notified when a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is detected in their home, and check temperature and humidity in a room — all hands-free.

Brenda Stolyar for Wired:

The second-generation HomePod breathes new life into the company’s smart home aspirations, boasting a new processor and improved sound quality, along with a temperature and humidity sensor, simpler smart home automation, and support for Matter—the standard that aims to make all smart home devices interoperable.

However, this smart speaker is nearly as expensive as the original. Sure, it’s $50 less, but it still costs $299. At least there’s still the HomePod Mini for $99.

As for those improved smart home features, you’ll now be able to use your HomePod to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms using its Sound Recognition feature (originally launched with iOS 14). Weirdly, this won’t be available at launch but will make its way to the speaker via a software update in June. If the HomePod detects these sounds, it’ll send a notification to your iPhone immediately…

Meanwhile, with the new temperature and humidity sensor, the speaker can measure indoor environments… You can use this data to set automation to, for example, turn the AC on or shut the blinds when a room reaches a certain temperature.

MacDailyNews Take: As owners of multiple HomePods (1st gen.), $299 is not expensive for what you get – and the 2nd generation HomePod offers even more features and, we assume comparable sound quality to the excellent original.

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9 Comments

  1. Why did Apple discontinue the first HomePod and have no serious speaker for the last two years, and now come out with a basic copy of it with a few enhancements? Is there anyone in charge at Apple any more?

    1. Apple would have been better off with a great speaker that had a close integration with AirPlay with some stereo pairing and other audio functions and forget the Home app which they clearly don’t care about anyway.

  2. The one thing I didn’t like about the HomePod is highs. It has fantastic base, good midrange, and mediocre highs. And this new one has fewer tweeters. 5 instead of 7, fewer microphones, and is smaller physically.

  3. For what it’s worth, using it as a MacBook speaker has improved, YouTube audio and video aren’t out of sync anymore, there’s still a lag with volume adjustments and other system sounds. This is on a 2015 machine though, haven’t tried it yet with my new MBP.

  4. My opinion is this Homepod should be dead on arrival. Siri is useless. Many families aren’t 100% locked into Apple’s corral. Anyone concerned with privacy or security would reject any talking speaker from any company. Those who care about music quality have already invested in vastly superior hi fi systems or home theaters or Sonos distributed audio systems. A true audiophile has a dedicated media room where (s)he might play, in no particular order, a streamed source, then a 5+1 channel SACD, then a phenomenal Bluray live concert like the Cure at Glastonbury, and then perhaps a classical stereo CD or favorite vinyl, perhaps an evening 4K film (BluRay again) with all the surround sound effects. WTF is the point of injecting a Homepod into this arrangement? A Homepod does absolutely nothing to make it easier to access an existing media collection or handle the array of inputs that you already have. If you want quality, you wouldn’t downgrade to 802.11n Wifi or bluetooth. If you don’t want quality, why pay the Apple premium for one a single-point speaker when a dozen other companies offer more versatile mini speaker options?

    For me, all consumer wireless audio is more annoying than freeing. For quality audio, physical wired inputs and real on-device controls and/or fully featured remote control are ALWAYS superior to voice activated anything cans from any company. How do you know? On Apple’s Homepod page, when you look at Tech Specs, Apple tells you color size and weight so you can match your can to your bookshelf finish. Any real audio company would tell you real audio measurements like S/N ratio, frequency range (preferably a full graph), connections or file compatibility, power usage and perhaps maximum output dB, and so forth. Even garage sale quality Class D old-school hi fi systems fed by a lossless media file will easily of blow away Apple’s latest attempt pushing a wireless monopoint speaker Music rental system that attempts to deliver nothing but compressed lo-fi streamed files. Anybody with an old iTunes library could also search, find, and play a specific deep cut track in seconds versus never getting there with Siri. He might even create an evening’s perfect playlist around that track whereas Siri will play the same boring corporate crap that everyone else is listening to this month. Siri can’t deliver an actual Random Play with any genre bandwidth at all. Sorry, but that’s a fact.

    However, Apple will likely be successful with their continued push rebranded Beats ecosystem stuff. Every corporation including Apple is successfully convincing the next generation to rent everything, just look at the app store, once a pleasant place to buy software: now in-app fees, ads, and subscriptions dominate. They’re not hiding the strategy. The Homepod sucks at just about everything unless you are an Apple Music subscriber. That’s all Apple cares about: subscription lock-in. For all the incessant whining about everything Cook does, the same whiners keep coming back to Apple, locking themselves into the “curated” garden and paying monthly fees to Apple. Go figure. I don’t like the concept or execution, and I’m not interested in buying any Homepod.

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