This week, Apple unexpectedly announced the second-generation full-size HomePod, about two years after it discontinued the original smart speaker.
The updated HomePod, priced at $299, joins the HomePod mini in Apple’s line of home and TV products with several new changes and features. A lower launch price, slightly modified design, and feature set are expected to make the second-generation HomePod more successful than its predecessor, which failed to capture mainstream market share, ultimately leading to its discontinuation. Below, we’re highlighting what exactly has changed with the second-gen HomePod compared to the first-gen smart speaker.
Faster service performance and Siri
As part of the new HomePod, Apple has included the S7 processor, the same chip found in Apple Watch Series 7, which powers room detection, advanced computational audio, Siri and more. The S7 chip is an upgrade to the A8 chip, which powered the first-generation HomePod and the 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 tweeters
The next-generation HomePod has four built-in microphones, compared to the first-generation HomePod’s six-microphone system. Even if users are across the room, away from the speaker and listening to music, the HomePod’s microphones allow them to summon Siri and control their HomePod.
The latest HomePod also has fewer tweeters than the original first-gen model. Apple’s spec sheet reveals that the new HomePod has five tweeters around its base, compared to seven on the original smart speaker. The tweeters help boost HomePod’s acoustic performance by optimizing “high frequencies to produce detailed, articulate audio with stunning clarity.” The reduction in the number of tweeters and microphones was likely a cost-cutting measure by Apple. Whether this will result in a noticeable drop in audio performance is currently unknown.
Temperature and humidity detection
The reintroduced HomePod offers temperature and humidity sensing, something missing from the original HomePod, but also coming to HomePod mini thanks to a future 16.3 software update.
HomePod’s built-in temperature and humidity sensor can measure indoor environments, allowing users to create automations that automatically close blinds or turn on a fan or heater when a certain temperature is reached in a room, for example. This information is exposed in the Home app like any other smart home accessory.
Easily detachable power cord
Original first-generation HomePod
Unlike the original HomePod, which 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 cable attached, and Apple didn’t recommend trying to forcefully disconnect it.
Larger backlit touch interface
One of the notable design changes with the updated HomePod is a larger backlit touch interface on top. Compared to the original HomePod, the new model features a significantly larger interface that glows and illuminates in different colors to show various speaker states and when Siri is in use.
Lighter and shorter design
The dimensions on Apple’s website for the second-generation HomePod help put the updated model’s size and form factor into perspective relative to its predecessor. The new HomePod weighs 5.16 pounds, compared to 5.5 pounds for the original smart speaker. The updated HomePod is also 6.6 inches tall, up from 6.8 inches. Both HomePods have the same width of 5.6 inches.
U1 ultra-wideband chip and thread
The new HomePod supports Thread, a connectivity standard for smart home devices that improves connectivity by allowing Thread devices to communicate directly with each other over a low-power mesh network. The original HomePod lacked Thread support, and only the HomePod mini had support.
The new HomePod also has a built-in U1 Ultra Wideband chip, which detects when other U1-equipped devices, like newer iPhone models, are nearby and allows them to quickly transfer audio to the smart speaker.
What hasn’t changed
With the new HomePod, two things haven’t changed: the lack of Bluetooth support and inline 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 HomePod with their iPhone or iPad and use Apple’s AirPlay standard or Siri to play audio. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new HomePod doesn’t feature an audio jack, optical audio port, or any other port. All interaction with the HomePod is done wirelessly using Apple devices.