Just because Apple discontinued the original HomePod and is having a really hard time selling its remaining inventory, doesn’t mean it’s done adding updates. If you buy a new Apple TV 4K, you’ll be able to play audio from other gadgets connected to your TV—including Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and cable boxes— via the HomePod.
The new Apple TV 4K is capable of doing this because it now supports ARC and eARC—two ports on your TV you should be familiar with if you’ve ever set up a home theater or soundbar. ARC, which stands for Audio Return Channel, lets you send audio from a TV to another speaker or soundbar via your HDMI cable. It’s great for avoiding the Medusa’s nest of cords as it allows you to send both video and audio through one cable. Meanwhile, eARC (or Enhanced Audio Return Channel) does the same thing but with HDMI 2.1, allowing you to use more bandwidth-heavy formats like Dolby Atmos.
You can do this with any original HomePod, either on its own or in a stereo pair. You can’t, however, do it with the HomePod Mini—at least not yet. Your TV also has to have either an ARC or eARC port, which most TVs these days do. Once you’ve double-checked all that, you can go to the Apple TV’s settings, select Video and Audio, and hit Default Audio Output. Make sure you pick your HomePod(s). Underneath that, you should see an “Audio Return Channel (Beta)” setting. Select Play Television Audio and toggle it on. Keep in mind that you may also have to fiddle with your TV’s audio settings.
I haven’t had the chance to try it out for myself, but it’s a bit odd to see Apple adding on features to a discontinued product, especially one that flopped as hard as the HomePod. This could potentially be a sign that Apple has some more smart home or home theater plans in the works—be it a HomePod 2, or the rumored Apple TV-HomePod hybrid device that Bloomberg reported on last month. It could just simply be Apple delivering on a promise it made when it announced the HomePod Mini. Whatever the reason, who are we to complain if HomePod owners get a little more mileage out of their gadgets?