Every so often I start asking myself if others would be interested in a potential Apple device that’s been rumored or talked about. In the past, I’ve asked this question about an iPadOS device with a MacBook form factor, as well as an iPad with an OLED keyboard with Apple’s Taptic Engine haptic feedback. With the demise of Apple’s original HomePod and some rumors of what they might do with this category in the future, I am wondering if other Apple fans would out their money down for a HomePod soundbar.
Before I dive into why I think this device is a good fit in Apple’s lineup going forward, let me say that I am still a fan of the original HomePod. I needed a top-notch speaker more than an intelligent assistant when it hit the market, so I’ve been happy with the device since I bought it. The sound quality is great and I’m pretty solidly plugged into the Apple services ecosystem, so I’m not really held back by the device’s lack of connection options.
Lately, I’ve been using my HomePod most often paired up with my Apple TV. I have it and two HomePod Minis set up in my bedroom and they sound great when watching movies, especially action flicks. I have been considering buying a second HomePod to bolster this setup, but I never pulled the trigger because I have the older, non-4K Apple TV, so I still wouldn’t be able to use Apple’s Dolby Atmos-compatible Home Theater Mode. I was holding out for an updated Apple TV that should be coming as soon as next month, but now the HomePod has been pulled from the market, which complicates things.
I’ve been watching the few used HomePods that have shown up on Swappa since Apple pulled the plug disappear pretty quickly, as people like me who were considering adding a second grab one before prices have a chance to go up if they continue to be hard to find. I’ve thought about buying one of these used HomePods, but I’m still waiting at least until the new Apple TV is out. However, I’m also curious about information that may start to trickle out about potential future HomePod hardware.
I’ve seen the rumors that Apple is developing a HomePod with a screen, but I’ll be honest- such a device has limited appeal for me. I have an abundance of connected screens in my home. I don’t need one more that is anchored to a spot and is very limited in scope. I know that Amazon and Google both have popular devices similar to this, so there’s likely a market for it among Apple fans. Some of you swear by these intelligent speakers with screens, but such a thing is not for everybody.
I’m thinking more about what happens to the Home Theater Mode that Apple just released late last year for two original HomePods paired with an Apple TV 4K. This is an interesting feature that seemed to find a niche among Apple fans who already owned the requisite hardware. I’ve also heard from people on Twitter who picked up a second HomePod specifically to enable this mode.
Unfortunately, the HomePods Minis aren’t compatible with Home Theater Mode and likely aren’t powerful enough for it to be added in the future, so they don’t seem like an option for Apple to carry it forward. So where does Apple turn now? Why would they give us a feature like this if the hardware it depends on is getting killed off just a few months later?
So we know that the biggest problem with the HomePod wasn’t the sound quality. That was universally praised, even by many critics of the device. It was just too expensive. It was a device that Apple tried to do too much with. The HomePod Mini makes more sense as a home-based product because its more limited scope delivers the features that most people are looking for at a far more approachable cost.
In my opinion, what Apple needs going forward isn’t a direct replacement to the HomePod, but multiple smaller, more focused devices like the HomePod Mini that fill different roles. A HomePod with a screen would fit well within that strategy and would likely sell. However, Apple shouldn’t stop there. For those of us who are interested in a HomePod that’s a perfect pair with the Apple TV, how about a HomePod soundbar? One that is specifically designed to deliver Dolby surround and Atmos for streaming video would likely ALSO sell.
Such a device would really simplify the process of enabling Home Theater Mode. Forget having to buy two expensive devices to get access to advanced home audio features. A single device (maybe with an optional wireless subwoofer that could be added separately) would likely be far more popular within that niche market. Maybe Apple could also add the capability for HomePod Minis to fill out a room to create a full surround experience, rather than simulating it with directional audio.
If nothing else, a HomePod sound bar that can deliver high quality audio, but drops the screen and touch interface of the HomePod and HomePod Mini would likely deliver the goods for someone like me without the excessive price tag. If Apple would also loosen up on its restrictions and add an open input port like an Optical Audio Port (which the Apple TV also has), such a sound bar product would be compatible with pretty much any TV or other device through a receiver or an adapter. I would buy this device in a second.
What do you think? Would you buy a HomePod soundbar that is specifically designed to function as an audio device for a television with an AppleTV or AirPlay-compatible TV? Would Apple including a wired audio input, like an Optical Audio Port, make a difference to you? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.