Just a day after unveiling a new MacBook Pro and revamped Mac Mini, Apple is announcing the return of a long-dormant product: the HomePod. A new second-generation version of Apple’s original smart speaker promises improved sound quality, and perhaps more importantly, a host of new smart home features designed to easily automate your daily activities and potentially keep you safe in an emergency.
Wondering if the new $299 HomePod is right for you? Here’s what you need to know before booking.
HomePod (2nd Gen) Prices and Preorders
The new HomePod promises improved sound quality as well as a host of new smart home features, including voice recognition and Matter support for playing with non-Apple gadgets.
The new $299 HomePod is available for preorder now and is scheduled to ship on February 17. 3. The cylindrical mesh-woven speakers will be available in white and midnight, the latter of which is a darker color that replaces the space gray option on the original model.
At first glance, the new HomePod doesn’t look too different from the original model that launched in 2018 and was discontinued in 2021. It’s still a big cylinder with a small screen on top to let you know Siri is listening. But this year, Apple is promising upgrades that it claims can make a big difference — in sound quality and overall smart home versatility.
Key new features include an improved S7 chip that handles sound better and delivers the same 360-degree spatial audio as Apple’s headphones. The new HomePod also features room-sensing technology, which allows the speaker to adjust its audio output based on your setup—whether it’s leaning against a wall on a bookshelf or sitting casually on a counter.
But the real selling point of the new HomePod is that it’s designed to fit perfectly into your smart home. The speaker now features Apple’s voice recognition technology, which can detect conditions like smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and send notifications to your iPhone in the event of an emergency. It’s also equipped with the same temperature and humidity sensors as the HomePod Mini, which means it can do things like automatically close blinds or turn on a fan once a room reaches a certain temperature. You can also look forward to a redesigned Home app designed to make it easier to keep tabs on and activate various smart gadgets.
Supporting HomePod’s improved smart home integration is support for Matter, a new smart home standard that allows products from different ecosystems — including Apple, Google, and Amazon — to play nicely together. Matter won CES 2023’s Best Smart Home Tech award, and should make the new HomePod an even more attractive option for any connected home (not just those filled with Apple products).
As with previous Apple speakers, you can pair two HomePods together for immersive stereo sound and connect them to your Apple TV for a compelling home theater experience (unfortunately, you won’t be able intergenerational mashups). If you Do If you already own a first-generation HomePod or Mini, you can create a multiroom audio setup to easily spread music throughout your home.
You can even use HomePod as an intercom, perfect for waking the kids up when they’re getting ready for school. You’ll also enjoy the same Gapless Play functionality as previous HomePods, whether you place your iPhone near the HomePod or play your favorite Apple Music tracks by calling Siri hands-free to stream songs to the HomePod.
The new $299 HomePod looks like a compelling option for folks who want a full-sized smart speaker with all the benefits of Apple’s ecosystem but 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 bigger brother. The improved smart home and security features of the second-generation HomePod are compelling, as is its compatibility with non-Apple gadgets.
We’ll be testing the new HomePod soon to see if it’s worth $299, but if you’re looking to buy your first Apple speaker — or want to bolster your setup with another, smarter HomePod — You should keep an eye on this.