Five years on Apple finally released the successor to its original HomePod. The second-generation HomePod breathes new life into the company’s smart home aspirations, boasting a new processor and improved sound quality, along with a temperature and humidity sensor, simpler smart home automation, and support for Matter—the standard that aims to make all smart home devices interoperable.
This smart speaker, however, is almost as expensive as its predecessor. Sure, it’s $50 less, but it still costs $299. At least there’s still the HomePod Mini. If the price doesn’t deter you, the second-generation HomePod is available for preorder and officially hits shelves on February 3.
The HomePod’s new look is identical to the original, wrapped in mesh fabric with a touch surface that glows backlit on top. There’s a new color option though—midnight, in addition to the traditional white. You’ll get a color-matched woven power cable, which is always a nice touch.
The inside is where the most notable improvements are. The new HomePod is powered by an S7 processor for computational audio—yep, the same one inside the Apple Watch Series 7—which is supposedly a massive upgrade from the A8 chip on the original. When it’s combined with the high-excursion woofer, internal bass-EQ mic, and an array of five tweeters, Apple says you’ll get a “groundbreaking listening experience.” Par for the course on Applespeak, but the audio quality was never one of our issues with the HomePod.
The new room-sensing technology is now available. With the ability to recognize sound reflections from nearby surfaces, the HomePod can identify whether it’s against a wall or freestanding and adjust the sound according to its specific placement in the room for clearer audio. We’ve seen variations of this technology from audio brands before, as well as from smart speaker manufacturers like Google. You can pair two HomePod speakers together for stereo sound. And yes, you can also pair it up with the HomePod Mini to create multi-room audio.
The Ultra Wideband technology, which we first saw on our HomePod Mini in 2021 allows you to transfer media from your iPhone directly to the HomePod. When both your iPhone and the HomePod are within reach, you can transfer any audio from your iPhone to the HomePod. This is great for when you’re home and don’t want to use your hands. You can also use Find My Support to locate your iPhone using the speaker by playing a sound from the lost device.
As for those improved smart home features, you’ll now be able to use your HomePod to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms using its Sound Recognition feature (originally launched with iOS 14). Weirdly, this won’t be available at launch but will make its way to the speaker via a software update in June. If the HomePod detects these sounds, it’ll send a notification to your iPhone immediately (these features are already available in Google and Amazon smart speakers as well).
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