On Wednesday, Apple announced the second-generation HomePod, six years after introducing the original. This one is a little smarter than its predecessor, making it worth considering for an upgrade. It costs $300, supports Spatial Audio, and includes extra smarts to help you control your smart home in the walled garden.
The new HomePod is more oblong than the original. It features the same mesh fabric that blankets the first two versions of the HomePod, including the HomePod Mini. It’s available in black and white and, like the Mini, includes a color-matched power cable.
Inside, the speaker is a little boomier than the last-gen. It has a custom subwoofer, a 20mm diaphragm, and five tweeters to help direct audio. Apple is touting the second-gen HomePod’s ability for spatial audio, though you’ll need additional HomePods to get the full effect. The first-generation HomePod will not work with this new ability.
The HomePod features “room sensing” algorithms to tell whether audio bounces off nearby surfaces or is free to roam. The idea is that the device will manually adjust to the room’s acoustics without your needing to tweak the equalizer. If you buy more than one HomePod, you can create a stereo pairing with each unit.
The HomePod also works with the Apple TV 4K if you want to add it to your home theater setup. You can then use it to control the Apple TV set-top box with your voice, even fo queuing up content. If you’re missing the iPhone somewhere in the couch cushions, you can use Find My on the HomePod to ask it to find your missing device.
Those aren’t the only smarts baked in. If you’ve got a smart home in the Apple ecosystem, now you can use the new HomePod to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with its Sound Recognition capability. There’s also a built-in temperature and humidity sensor that can measure the indoors to give you a quick reading in the Apple Home app. It’s much more convenient than buying the sensors separately and pairing them within your smart home. (It’s worth noting the HomePod mini also has the requisite hardware to do the same.)
Siri may not be the best digital assistant, but it’s working on catching up. The latest update introduces the confirmation tone to indicate when it’s heard your command. It’s similar to a feature already available with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Apple’s ambient sounds have also been remastered and can now be added to different scenes in the smart home. And, of course, the HomePod is Matter compatible, though only a few accessory makers are currently shipping Matter-enabled products.
The new HomePod is available to pre-order in several regions, including the U.S., U.K., Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, China, Canada, Australia, and 11 other areas. However, it won’t ship until it’s available on Feb.3.