But as I wrote just a few months ago, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s starting to appear that we (and Apple?) might have taken the original HomePod for granted. Now that the HomePod mini is available for $99, the lack of a full-size HomePod with impressive sound quality is a glaring hole in Apple’s lineup.
My relationship with the original HomePod has been complicated. I liked it when I originally reviewed it in 2018, but it was flawed in some pretty big ways, and I was really pessimistic about its market positioning. Basically, I enjoyed the HomePod, but I felt it was tough to recommend to most people.
I still have 2 original HomePods in my house, and they fill my living room and office with amazing sound. I was a bit sad that they discontinued the product last year, although given my skepticism mentioned above, I wouldn't say I was shocked.
The HomePod Mini is a much more mainstream product and it has the price point to match. Apple's also added a ton of the things I complained about in my 2018 review since then, and HomePods (both mini and regular) are much better products today because of those updates.
Which brings us to new rumors that Apple is working on a higher end HomePod for release next year. I must be down on this, right?
Nope, I'm excited for it.
I think that with the HomePod Mini providing a $100 speaker that's good enough for a lot of people's needs, a more expensive model makes a lot more sense today than it did in 2018. The Mini has all the smart assistant things you want, good sound, and impulse-buy/gift pricing, and I think most people will continue to get this model. With this model holding down the entry point, there's room to go up and give people who want more something that appeals to them as well.
"But why didn't people buy the big HomePod after the Mini came out? How could you think this new HomePod will do any better?" It's a good question, and I would say a couple things.
One, you never get to make a second impression, and I think the poor reception the HomePod got hurt it for its entire run.
Two, the 2018 HomePod's hardware was imperfect in several key ways Apple could fix in a 2023 model. Performance needs to be much better, as the original HomePod is much slower to do the same things as the Mini, and it could use a better way to interact with physically. I'd love to see a model with a full LED display, but the rumors don't seem to say that's what this will have, but they have to do something a little better than the "looks cool but is kinda impractical" glowy lights they did on the original.
Maybe this new HomePod will flop, but I have high hopes that it will do better than the original. In addition to all the reasons listed above, I think that Apple is in a better place than they were 4 years ago in terms of delivering products that just nailed exactly what customers want, and I also think that the pandemic made people more willing to pay for nicer things to make their home better, so a premium smart speaker is going to be more palatable to the market.