Apple’s HomePod 2 is available for purchase today, with pick-up available in US and UK stores. But should you buy Apple’s surprise second edition of the smart speaker? Only if you have fully purchased the Apple ecosystem.
Our review of the Apple HomePod 2 praises the speaker’s “rich sound”, stating that “no single speaker sounds as good for its price.” If you can afford doubling the price of $299 / £299 / AU$479, we also recommend combining the two in a stereo system. While home deliveries still have to wait, the HomePod 2 can be purchased online from the Apple Store (opens in a new tab) today if you choose the in-store pickup option.
The second edition of the HomePod – following the original which launched in 2018 and was discontinued just three years later – still has a relatively niche appeal. It doesn’t greatly improve on its predecessor, nor does it address major issues, most notably the lack of Bluetooth connectivity.
The latter means the HomePod 2 is again quite picky about where it picks up sound from. In fact, the only way to play music is to use Apple AirPlay 2 over Wi-Fi or the Siri voice assistant. This means you can only send audio from an Apple device, which is quite limiting if someone in your household is using Android.
Still, if you mainly own iPhones and iPads – and also subscribe to Apple Music for the power of Dolby Atmos – there’s nothing quite like the HomePod 2. It’s the ultimate smart speaker for Apple fans, even if it’s still not particularly smart.
The new HomePod 2 support for the Matter smart home standard, as well as temperature and humidity sensors have some potential, but we didn’t find them particularly convincing right now. The speaker’s smart home potential is probably one of the main reasons Apple brought it back, so we can’t wait to see how it develops.
Analysis: Why HomePod is back?
It’s very unusual for Apple to reintroduce a product less than two years after saying it was discontinued. As we discovered in our Apple HomePod 2 review, the new model doesn’t offer much more than the original version or solve its biggest problems; so why did he come back?
Matthew Costello of Apple (Vice President of Hardware Engineering and Operations) recently said. TechCrunch (opens in a new tab) that Apple fans just demanded it. “We’ve really heard from our customers a growing interest in the more powerful and richer acoustics of a larger speaker,” he said.
Given that sales are also a good way to measure customer demand, and that apparently they weren’t high enough to prevent Apple from discontinuing the original HomePod, this is a somewhat odd argument. But it’s also true that a few things have changed over the last few years to make the full-sized HomePod more appealing again.
First, Apple Music now supports lossless playback along with Dolby Atmos surround sound. The latter bounces sound off the walls for greater separation and is especially useful if you own an Apple TV as you can use a pair of HomePod 2 as an alternative to the best soundbars.
We also saw the Matter 1.0 smart home standard finally launch last November. All devices that support it – including HomePod 2 – can work together, regardless of manufacturer and whether they support Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit.
Apple clearly sees the HomePod 2 as a key part of its new push to be part of a Matter-enabled smart home. While it’s too early to tell, the new HomePod’s detailed and balanced sound will be a good soundtrack to listen to in the meantime.