The HomePod was the first smart speaker to be released by Apple – and now it’s been confirmed that the original Apple HomePod is being discontinued, with the company focussing on the smaller, cheaper Apple HomePod mini.
After the space gray HomePod was noted to be out of stock in the US, Apple confirmed to TechCrunch that the entire line was being discontinued, and once stocks have been exhausted, you won’t be able to buy the wireless speaker.
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- Or, check out the Apple HomePod mini
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In a statement, Apple said that "HomePod Mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod Mini."
The news may come as something of a surprise to anyone looking forward to testing the latest features to come to the Apple HomePod. While the speaker was first released in 2018, it was recently given a nice boost with Dolby Atmos support, which means it can be used for spatial audio in a home cinema setup.
The original HomePod was also recently given a HomePod mini feature called Intercom, which allows the Apple HomePod to double up as an intercom system for your home, letting you send voice messages to other HomePods, iPhones, iPads, CarPlay, and even AirPods.
While Apple has confirmed that the original HomePod will continue to receive software updates (though for how long is unknown), it sounds as though the company is putting all its energy into the HomePod mini.
But why would Apple choose to discontinue its original smart speaker now, so soon after its been upgraded with some exciting new features?
Apple is about to release a new HomePod
Upon hearing that the HomePod is to be discontinued, one of our first thoughts was that Apple could be poised to release a new smart speaker for 2021.
It’s possible that Apple is clearing the way for a HomePod 2 to take the place of its flagship speaker, retaining the large size and sonic power of its predecessor as an alternative to the smaller HomePod mini.
Until now, the Apple HomePod 2 hasn’t been among the rumored devices, but as the original smart speaker was launched in 2018, it could be a good time for the company to refresh the HomePod and provide a larger sibling for the HomePod mini.
The Apple HomePod has long had a place in our round up of the best wireless speakers you can buy, but that’s mainly due to its excellent audio performance – in terms of smart home integration, it doesn’t measure up to the likes of the Amazon Echo or the Google Nest Hub Max.
It could be that Apple is looking to improve the HomePod’s built-in voice assistant Siri and isn’t able to do so via a software update. Saying that, the HomePod mini suffers from many of the same drawbacks as its predecessor in terms of smart home integration, and we can’t see Apple rectifying these for a new model in such a short amount of time.
Instead, Apple may just be looking to bring some of the HomePod mini’s best features to a larger model – for example, the ultra-wideband support that allows you to handoff music from your iPhone 13 to the HomePod mini by simply hovering it above the speaker.
This technology requires a change to the hardware of the HomePod, and that, alongside a new design, could be reason enough for Apple to launch a new flagship smart speaker.
In any case, it’s worth bearing in mind that Apple rarely discontinues an old product before announcing its replacement – though in a year where delays have become commonplace due to the pandemic, it’s still a possibility that the tech brand is a little behind schedule with the next HomePod
HomePod mini sales too strong to ignore
Since its launch in 2019, the Apple HomePod has never lived up to the company’s expectations in terms of sales – and that’s partly down to its high price.
At launch, the HomePod cost $349 / £319/ AU$499, so it was (and still is) far pricier than many smart speakers on the market, particularly from Apple’s biggest rivals, Amazon and Google.
By comparison, the $99 / £99 / AU$149 HomePod mini is far more budget-friendly – and it’s possible that this cheaper price has influenced sales positively, essentially eclipsing its predecessor.
While Apple didn't go into any great detail about why the HomePod's run is now over, we can’t see the company getting rid of a product that’s still lucrative. Still, anyone hoping for a dirt-cheap full-size HomePod will likely be disappointed – Apple isn’t exactly known for its bargain basement prices.
Is it still worth buying an Apple HomePod?
The Apple HomePod will continue to be sold until stock runs out – so you may still be able to get your hands on one for the time being.
Now that it’s been discontinued you may find some great Apple HomePod deals, so it’s worth shopping around if the price is what put you off buying one in the past.
As for its performance? Well, the original Apple HomePod is still one of the best wireless speakers on the market, with an excellent audio performance that will fill pretty much any room you place it in.
Sure, its smart home integration leaves something to be desired, and Siri isn’t the best voice assistant out there, but if sound quality is your main concern, the Apple HomePod is still a great home audio device – you’ll just need to act fast if you want to get your hands on one.