This week, Apple unexpectedly announced the second generation full-size HomePod, nearly two years after it discontinued the original smart speaker.
The upgraded HomePod, which retails for $299, joins the HomePod mini in Apple’s line of TV and home products with several changes and new features. The lower price at launch, slightly modified design, and host of features are expected to make the second generation HomePod more successful than its predecessor, which failed to capture mainstream market share, eventually leading to its discontinuation. Below, we’ve highlighted exactly what has changed with the second generation HomePod compared to the first generation smart speakers.
Faster performance for Siri services
As part of the all-new HomePod, Apple has included the S7 processor, the same chip found in the Apple Watch Series 7, that powers room sensing, advanced computational audio, Siri, and more. The S7 chip is an upgrade of the A8 chip, which supports the first generation HomePod, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The chip will help improve the experience of using Siri and services like Apple Music and iHeartRadio.
Fewer microphones and speakers
The next-generation HomePod has four microphones built in, compared to the six-microphone system in the first-generation HomePod. Even if users are across the room, away from the speaker, listening to music, the HomePod’s microphones enable them to summon Siri and control the HomePod.
The latest HomePod also has fewer speakers than the original first-generation model. Apple’s spec sheet reveals that the new HomePod has five speakers around its base, compared to seven in the original smart speaker. The speakers help enhance the HomePod’s audio performance by optimizing “high frequencies to produce detailed, detailed sound with stunning clarity.” The reduction in the number of speakers and microphones is likely a cost-cutting measure by Apple. Whether this will lead to a noticeable decrease in audio performance is currently unknown.
Temperature and humidity sensor
The reintroduced HomePod offers temperature and humidity sensing, something the original HomePod lacked, but is also coming to the HomePod mini thanks to a future 16.3 software update.
The HomePod’s built-in temperature and humidity sensor can measure indoor environments, allowing users to create automations that close curtains or automatically turn on a fan or heater when a certain temperature is reached in a room, for example. This information is disclosed in the Home app like any other smart home accessory.
Easily detachable power cable
The original 1st generation HomePod
Unlike the original HomePod that required force to remove the cable, the new HomePod has an easily detachable power cable, allowing users to quickly disconnect the cable from the speaker for travel or storage. The original HomePod came with the included cable, and Apple didn’t recommend trying to force it apart.
Larger backlit touch interface
One noticeable design change with the updated HomePod is a larger backlit touch interface on the top. Compared to the original HomePod, the new model features a much larger interface that lights up and flashes different colors to show the different states of the speaker and when Siri is in use.
Lighter and shorter design
The dimensions on Apple’s website for the second generation HomePod help keep the updated model’s size and form factor in relation to its predecessor in mind. The all-new HomePod weighs 5.16 pounds, compared to 5.5 pounds for the original smart speaker. The upgraded HomePod is 6.6 inches tall, up from 6.8 inches. Both HomePods feature the same width of 5.6 inches.
Thread and ultra-wide UI slice
The new HomePod supports Thread, a communication standard for smart home devices that improves connectivity by allowing Thread devices to talk to each other directly over a low-power mesh network. The original HomePod lacked Thread support, with only HomePod mini compatible.
The new HomePod also has a built-in U1 Ultra Wideband chip, which detects when other U1-equipped devices such as newer iPhone models are nearby and allows them to quickly deliver audio to the smart speaker.
What has not changed
With the new HomePod, two things haven’t changed: the lack of Bluetooth support and Direct Audio. Unlike other speakers, the new HomePod, like the previous generation model and the current HomePod mini, cannot function as a standalone Bluetooth speaker. Users must pair their HomePod to their iPhone or iPad and use Apple’s AirPlay standard or Siri to play audio. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new HomePod doesn’t have an audio jack, optical audio port, or any other ports. All interaction with HomePod is done wirelessly using Apple devices.