Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The Apple HomePod is back, with new smarts, and a lower price

Apple has launched a second generation of its HomePod, for $299 ($50 less than the first-gen), with a similar design to the original HomePod. Apple discontinued the first-gen HomePod in 2021, less than a year after the debut of the HomePod mini, leaving many to wonder if the company had completely abandoned the larger smart speaker. Simply called the second-gen HomePod, the new model offers improved audio quality and deeper integration into the smart home. It’s available to pre-order online and in the Apple Store app starting today, with availability beginning Friday, February 3.

Two Apple HomePods (second gen).

In many ways, the second-gen looks exactly the same as the original HomePod. Apple has kept the distinctive rounded shape, the fabric-wrapped exterior, and the instantly recognizable touch area on top, complete with a colorful feedback display. Even the dimensions are nearly identical, with the same 5.6-inch diameter, but a slightly shorter height (6.6 inches vs. 6.8 inches). It’s also a tad lighter at 5.16 pounds instead of the first-gen’s 5.5-pound weight.

More on the new HomePod

Diagram of the internals of the second and first-gen Apple HomePods side-by-side.
A diagram of the second-gen Apple HomePod internals (left) seen next to the first-gen HomePod. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The general layout of the internal drivers remains the same too, with a large, high-excursion 4-inch woofer mounted centrally, and an array of tweeters positioned around the smart speaker‘s bottom cavity. But now, instead of seven tweeters, Apple is only using five. And though they each have their own neodymium magnet, Apple hasn’t indicated that each gets its own custom amplifier — something it touted on the first-gen HomePod. Also trimmed is the number of mics — the new speaker has just four of the far-field units instead of the original’s six mics. These changes may help explain the second-gen’s lower starting price.

Powering the system is Apple’s S7 chip — the same silicon it uses in the Apple Watch Series 7 — which replaces the first-gen’s A8 CPU, which had been initially used in devices like the iPhone and iPad.  Apple says its new software and “system-sensing technology” let the second-gen model deliver improved performance through computational audio and a greater awareness of its own acoustic behavior. Spatial audio, which Apple has been championing on its AirPods line of wireless headphones, is also available.

Apple HomePod second-gen in a stereo pair.

As before, the new version includes room-sensing technology so that the speaker can self-calibrate for various scenarios like proximity to walls and corners. You can stereo-pair two of the speakers, and they can also be linked to an Apple TV 4K. When doing so using the latest version of Apple’s streaming device, the HomePods can act as an audio system for all of your TV’s content thanks to the Apple TV 4K’s HDMI-eARC interface.

With Apple AirPlay 2, you can beam audio to the HomePod from any Apple device and use the speaker as part of a multiroom audio system, similar to Sonos. In fact, AirPlay is still the only way to stream to the HomePod. Despite having a Bluetooth 5.0 radio, Apple continues to keep the speaker’s Bluetooth capabilities severely limited — you can’t connect a non-Apple product to the HomePod using the wireless tech, keeping the speaker strictly an Apple-only accessory.

Handoff between Apple iPhone and Apple HomePod second-gen.

Leveraging Apple’s ultra-wideband (UWB) technology inside the iPhone, you’ll be able to perform a handoff from the iPhone to the HomePod so that currently playing music can follow you from one device to another. Built-in UWB also means that if you misplace your Find My-enabled Apple products, you’ll be able to ask Siri to tell you where they are and/or get those devices to play a sound to help you locate them.

Apple says the new HomePod will have some pretty advanced smart home skills. With a software update slated for the spring, Apple claims it will be able to actively listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and send a notification directly to the user’s iPhone if a sound is identified. It also includes a new temperature and humidity sensor, letting the HomePod augment an existing thermostat. You can create automations that close blinds or turn on a fan automatically when a certain temperature is reached in a room.

Using Siri to control music and smart home devices is a big part of the HomePod experience, and Apple says that there’s a new confirmation tone that indicates when a Siri request is made to control an accessory that may not visibly show a change, like a heater, or for accessories located in a different room. Siri has also been given the ability to recognize up to six different voices. That’s something the original HomePod lacked.

Apple HomePod second-gen with Apple Home app.

The smart speaker is also a Matter-enabled hub, letting the HomePod connect to and control other devices that use the growing smart home communication protocol. To leverage these improved smart home capabilities, Apple has also announced that it has redesigned its Home app for iOS, which has new categories for climate, lights, and security, plus a new multicamera view.

Curiously, Apple has dropped some of its older devices from the new HomePod’s compatibility list. Gone are the iPhone 6- and 7-series models, as well as the first-gen iPhone SE. iPad support no longer extends to devices older than the 5th-gen iPad, 3rd-gen iPad Air, and 5th-gen iPad mini.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
Apple has upgraded the AirPods Pro with lossless audio, sort of
Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C.

Amid the slew of new Apple products launched today, only the tiniest mention was made of the fact that Apple has also given the AirPods Pro Gen 2 wireless earbuds a not-so-minor refresh. Along with the expected addition of USB-C, making the AirPods Pro the first Apple headphones to ditch the Lightning connector, Apple has also given the iconic white noise-canceling earbuds the ability to do lossless audio wirelessly -- something that has never been seen on the AirPods family before, and is even a rarity among non-Apple wireless audio devices.

There is, however, a catch. The "groundbreaking wireless audio protocol" that allows for lossless audio at 20-bit/48 kHz (a better-than-CD-quality resolution) is powered by the AirPods Pro's H2 chip, but for now, it only works when paired with the upcoming Apple Vision Pro headset. At the moment, Qualcomm's aptX Lossless Bluetooth codec (when used with compatible wireless headphones and smartphones) is the only technology that supports lossless audio wirelessly, and even that technology is limited to 16-bit/48kHz.

Read more
A new USB-C case may be in AirPods Pro’s future
The Lightning connection on the AirPods Pro case.

The Lightning connection on AirPods Pro may be a thing of the past if Apple finally makes the switch to USB-C. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

One of the worst-kept secrets in Cupertino, California (if anyone's actually trying to keep it, anyway) is that the iPhone 15 is going to switch to USB-C from Apple's proprietary Lightning connection when it's announced later this year. That's likely due in no small part due to the European Union, and generally speaking, it's a good thing because proprietary cables are bad for you, even if they're great for Apple. (And arguably better for the product.)

Read more
Soon, Apple AirPods Pro will be able to react to your environment
Apple AirPods Pro in a person's ear.

At Apple's annual WWDC event today, Apple announced some clever new AirPods Pro skills to make it easier to get the most from the earbuds' active noise cancellation and transparency modes. The new enhancements will be supported by iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma, which will both be available in the fall.

The first feature is called Adaptive Audio, an optional mode that sits between full noise cancellation and transparency modes. It uses onboard processing to determine the right amount of noise canceling and transparency for your given situation and automatically applies those changes.

Read more