The HomePod is back, but can it last this time? I’m not so sure.
Earlier today, Apple announced the return of the HomePod, the large smart speaker that it originally launched in 2018 and eventually discontinued in March 2021. The return of HomePod brings a number of upgrades underneath the hood including changes to the engineering, the number of tweeters, the number of microphones, and a more modern WiFi chip.
The new HomePod also comes packed with a temperature and humidity sensor, an accelerometer, an Ultra Wideband chip for device proximity, and support for Matter, the new smart home standard that almost everyone is supporting with new and upcoming products.
Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said that “leveraging our audio expertise and innovations, the new HomePod delivers rich, deep bass, natural mid-range, and clear, detailed highs. With the popularity of HomePod mini, we’ve seen growing interest in even more powerful acoustics achievable in a larger HomePod. We’re thrilled to bring the next generation of HomePod to customers around the world.”
The return of the HomePod is great, especially with all of those internal upgrades. However, there’s one thing that the new HomePod won’t be able to do and that’s actually selling a lot of HomePods. That’s because Apple has seemingly forgotten, or is unwilling to admit, the largest flaw of the HomePod: the price.
Same as the old boss
The new HomePod, bewilderingly, costs $299, almost the same as the original HomePod when it launched back in 2018. Back then, Apple started the large smart speaker at $349. Over the next three years, you could regularly find the HomePod at discounts of $50 or sometimes even as much as $100.
Despite third-party retailers commonly discounting the HomePod, sales never took off and the smart speaker struggled to handle the pressure of more affordable options from the likes of Google and Amazon. Eventually, Apple launched the HomePod mini in 2020 and after seeing great success with the $99 smart speaker, discontinued the HomePod in 2021.
When rumors started to arise about the return of the HomePod, I was really excited. I was hoping that Apple would be able to bring back the larger speaker, which has an even fuller sound than the HomePod mini, as the option for those looking for a little more than what the HomePod mini has to offer.
I didn’t care about almost anything else. Not the tweeters, not the woofer, not Matter. I only cared that Apple would lower the price. A return of the HomePod at $199 would have been a smash hit and ensured that Apple had two viable options for a wide range of customers.
However, the new HomePod came in at $299, a price so disappointing that I can’t help but speculate that the new HomePod will end up with the same fate as the original. I can’t see the path to success here. Apple is trying the same thing again after giving up on that plan before.
Meet the new HomePod. Same as the old HomePod.