Just a day after revealing new MacBook Pros and a revamped Mac Mini, Apple has announced the return of a long-dormant product: the HomePod. The new second-generation version of Apple’s original smart speaker promises improved sound quality, and perhaps more significantly, a range of new smart home features that are designed to easily automate your everyday activities — and potentially keep you safe in an emergency.
Wondering if the new $299 HomePod is for you? Here’s what you need to know before you hit preorder.
HomePod (2nd Gen) price and preorders
The new HomePod promises improved sound quality as well as a range of new smart home features, including Sound Recognition and Matter support for playing nice with non-Apple gadgets.
The new $299 HomePod is available for preorder now and is set to ship on Feb. 3. The cylindrical, mesh-woven speaker will be available in white and Midnight, the latter of which is a darker shade replacing the Space Gray option on the original model.
A smarter Apple speaker
At a quick glance, the new HomePod doesn’t look much different from the original model that launched in 2018 and was later discontinued in 2021. It’s still a big cylinder with a little screen on top that lets you know that Siri is listening. But this year, Apple is promising upgrades that it claims can make a big difference — for sound quality and overall smart home versatility.
Key new features include an improved S7 chip that can better process sound and deliver the same 360-degree Spatial Audio available on Apple’s headphones. The new HomePod also sports room-sensing technology, which allows the speaker to adjust its audio output based on how you have it set up — whether against a wall on your bookshelf or standing freely on your counter.
But the new HomePod’s real selling point is how smoothly it’s designed to fit into your smart home. The speaker now features Apple’s Sound Recognition technology, which can detect things like smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and send a notification to your iPhone in the event of an emergency. It also packs the same temperature and humidity sensor as the HomePod Mini, meaning it can automatically do things like close the blinds or turn on your fan once a room reaches a certain temperature. You can also look forward to a redesigned Home app that’s designed to make it easier to keep tabs on and activate your various smart gadgets.
Bolstering the HomePod’s improved smart home integration is support for Matter, a new smart home standard that allows products from various ecosystems — including Apple, Google and Amazon — to all play nice together. Matter took home our best smart home tech of CES 2023 award, and should make the new HomePod a more compelling buy for any connected home (not just ones filled with Apple products).
As with previous Apple speakers, you’ll be able to pair two HomePods together for immersive stereo sound — and connect them to your Apple TV for an engrossing home theater experience (unfortunately, you won’t be able to mix and match between generations). And if you do already have a first-gen HomePod or Mini, you can create a multi-room audio setup for easily spreading music across your entire home.
You can even use your HomePod as an intercom, something perfect for waking the kids up once it’s time to get ready for school. You’ll also enjoy the same seamless playback features as on previous HomePods, whether you’re beaming a song to your HomePod by simply placing your iPhone near it or calling on Siri hands-free to play your favorite tracks from Apple Music.
The new $299 HomePod is looking like a compelling choice for folks who want a full-size smart speaker that has all of the perks of the Apple ecosystem — but can still work outside of it.
The $99 HomePod Mini has long been one of our best smart speaker picks, thanks to its great sound and plethora of Siri smarts, but it’s simply not as loud and full as its larger sibling. The second-generation HomePod’s improved smart home and safety features are compelling, as is its Matter compatibility for working nicely with non-Apple gadgets.
We’ll be putting the new HomePod through its paces soon to see if it’s worth the $299, but if you’re looking to get your first Apple speaker — or want to augment your setup with another, even smarter HomePod — you should keep an eye on this one.