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(Pocket-lint) - Apple's original HomePod was released in early 2018 and sounded fantastic but the common criticism was that the implementation of Siri left a little to be desired.

Apple has now discontinued the original HomePod only a few months after releasing the smaller HomePod mini, though the larger HomePod still remains available at present.

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Here we are looking at the latest rumours surrounding the HomePod 2, as well as what we want to see from a second-gen larger HomePod device. 

The original HomePod cost quite a bit more than the Amazon Echo and Google Home alternatives it competes against. The HomePod mini is a lot more affordable, a rival to devices like the Echo.

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In a statement sent to Pocket-lint, Apple said: "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.

"We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care." 

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What we want to see on HomePod 2

These are the features we'd like to see appear on the next Apple HomePod.

Bluetooth support

Apple seemed to try and suppress Bluetooth in early iterations of iOS – it was really buried in the Settings app, perhaps because Apple wanted users to use its own AirPlay tech instead. It's not like that nowadays – Bluetooth is front and centre just as it is in Android.

It's, therefore, a little odd that HomePod doesn't support devices connecting to it via Bluetooth, especially when HomePod devices actually have Bluetooth inside and uses it for the setup process.

Spotify Connect support

OK so this falls into the "it'll never happen" category but bear with us while we dream of HomePod mini and HomePod 2 being the best Spotify Connect speaker out there. We think it's unlikely the HomePod will ever have it (like Amazon Echo devices) because Apple being Apple it will favour its own AirPlay tech. However, HomePod will be including support for Spotify and other streaming providers - see below. 

Gesture control

As we've mentioned below, a patent suggests that an upcoming HomePod will have gesture control as an alternative to voice (in addition to the current touch controls). We're thinking this is probably going to be for basic stuff such as changing the volume or skipping to the next track to keep things simple. That would be a far more agreeable approach rather than adding unnecessary buttons in future.

A better Siri

The problem with Siri on HomePod is that it's not been given license to fly – some essentials are missing, such as support for internet radio apart from Apple's own Music 1 and there's little doubt that Siri lags behind the flexibility of Google Assistant and the bulletproof though Amazon-focused Alexa.

Still, we've no doubt that Apple will get Siri right – after all, this is one of the world's most resourceful companies we're talking about. Compared to the capabilities of both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, Siri is very much third in the race now even though it debuted first. 

Wireless Qi charging

Apple's AirPower never made it but why couldn't HomePod 2 have wireless charging on the top? Now that would be very handy. 

HomePod as a surround system

You can already stereo pair HomePods, of course, but what if you could combine one with a couple of HomePod minis and a subwoofer and you could sync it all up into a system to go with your Apple TV? Now there's a thing.

Apple HomePod rumours: What's happened so far?

Here's everything we've heard so far regarding new HomePods.

13 March 2021: Apple discontinues the original HomePod

Apple has discontinued the original HomePod, saying "we are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini". HomePod mini was launched last year and was generally well-received aside from a few general issues with Siri.

3 February 2021: Latest macOS beta shows HomePod stereo pairing is coming

With the release of the beta version of macOS Big Sur 11.3, a change has been made that adds stereo pairs of HomePods to the audio output settings on your Mac, enabling you to select it as a system-wide output source in stereo.

27 January 2021: Apple releases iOS 14.4 with UWB handoff feature for HomePod mini

Apple has rolled out iOS 14.4 with a companion update for its HomePod mini, enabling the ultra-wideband (UWB) handoff feature that enables U1-equipped iPhones to easily pass music, calls, and podcasts between the two.

20 October 2020: New Intercom feature and more with iOS 14.1

Apple has released iOS 14.1 for the iPhone and for the HomePod. These software updates bring new features and improvements. They are free to download over the air for all eligible devices. The biggest change is Intercom, announced during Apple's October event. It is now available for all HomePod models. With Intercom, you can send real-time audio messages from one HomePod to another, if they're in the same home. To update your HomePod to iOS 14.1, go into the Home app on your iOS device: Tap the House icon >Tap Home Settings > tap Software Update > Tap Update (All).

13 October 2020: Dolby Atmos HomePod support coming soon

Dolby Atmos support is coming to the original Apple HomePod in the coming weeks according to Apple via a software update. Users who connect their HomePod to the Apple TV will be able to benefit from the new feature, believed to be dubbed "Home theater with Apple TV 4K" on all Dolby Atmos content.

13 October 2020: Here's the Apple HomePod mini

Apple announced the HomePod mini during its Hi Speed event on 13 October, alongside the iPhone 12. The device is a smaller verison of the HomePod and it has a ball-like design with a mesh material and a LED touch surface on the top.

6 October 2020: Apple announces next hardware event

Apple sent invites out to its next hardware event, which will take place on 13 October. The company is expected to announce the iPhone 12, alongside the AirTags, HomePod 2 and AirPods Studio headphones.

6 October 2020: Apple stops selling other rival audio gear ahead of HomePod, AirPods Studio launches

Apple is reported to have pulled rival audio products from its stores ahead of new launches from the company, including the reported HomePod 2.

15 September 2020: Apple holds Special Event but there was no HomePod 2

Apple held its Time Flies Special Event on 15 September but there was no mention of HomePod. Instead, the event focused on the new iPad Air and iPad 8th generation as well as the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, Fitness+ and Apple One subscription service.

2 September 2020 - Apple rumours again point to a smaller HomePod

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, both of which have a good track record when it comes to revealing Apple's secrets, claim that a smaller, cheaper HomePod is expected this September alongside the Apple AirPods Studio over-ear headphones. 

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24 June 2020: Apple's HomePod to get support for Spotify and other third-party services

Support for third-party music services like Spotify, Tidal and Deezer is coming to Apple's HomePod as we've suspected for a while, though there's no confirmation of which services will actually be supported. The announcement came in an Apple press release about various developer-orientated enhancements: "HomePod also has a new program to integrate third-party music services". 

28 May 2020: Apple buys more companies to power up Siri

It's self-evident that Siri's capabilities have fallen behind Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa in its ability to adapt to natural language. Apple has bought several companies in the area of AI (artificial intelligence) in recent times and the latest firm, Inductiv, will enable Apple to better analyse data that comes in - presumably from user interactions - and so enhance the machine learning effort. 

18 May 2020: HomePod drops to $200/£200 and availability is more scarce

The original HomePod sold out on the Apple Store on 14 May but became available again with a longer lead time. However, it appears stocks are now low and it's clear that HomePods are being sold off with a $200 price point at BestBuy and other stores. 

19 February 2020: Support for Spotify and other music services? 

It's rumoured that iOS 14 will usher in new capabilities for Apple devices to use non-standard apps as default options. And that will also mean more flexibility for the HomePod, too, with customers able to use Spotify or other music services on Apple's smart speaker - not just Apple Music.

Such new functionality would probably be launched alongside a new HomePod, but there's no reason why the older model couldn't be updated for this as well. 

22 August 2019: Bloomberg report details cheaper HomePod features

A Bloomberg report, written by Mark Gurman, has detailed several features expected to come on Apple's unreleased devices, including a cheaper HomePod. 

According to Gurman: "Apple is also working on a cheaper HomePod for as early as next year. The current $300 model hasn't sold very well. The new model is likely to have two tweeters (a type of loudspeaker), down from seven in the current HomePod." 

8 February 2019: Could the next-gen Apple HomePod feature hand gestures and Face ID?

A granted patent application suggests the next-gen HomePod could have facial recognition and control via hand gestures. 

As with all such patents that appear online after they lose confidential status, it was originally submitted a while ago - back in 2017 in this case. And while the HomePod isn't explicitly mentioned, it's pretty clear that that's what the patent is referring to.

21 May 2018: Apple's cheaper HomePod may carry Beats branding

A report from Apple's supply chain, via Chinese site Sina, has claimed a cheaper version of the HomePod speaker may carry Beats branding.

The report also said Apple is having talks with MediaTek about producing the new model, which would cost $199 when it goes on sale. 

8 March 2018: A smaller, cheaper Apple HomePod could be on the way

The Taiwanese Economic Daily and Mac Okatara both claimed that Apple planned to launch a more affordable version of the Siri-enabled speaker in the second half of 2018 for between $150 - $200. Of course that never happened, but that's not to say it won't.

Writing by Dan Grabham. Originally published on 11 March 2019.