Apple had already planned to release a portable, battery-powered version of its HomePod smart speaker, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
In his PowerOn Newsletter, Gurman said the company even created a prototype HomePod Bluetooth speaker before ultimately scrapping the project.
If Gurman’s claim is accurate, that’s a shame, because there are few truly portable smart speakers on the market right now – we could certainly do with a rival to challenge our favorite model, the Sonos Roam, if only to shake up the market a bit.
Currently, Apple’s only wireless speaker, the HomePod mini (Apple discontinued the original HomePod in March last year) needs to be plugged into a power outlet.
More recently, Apple ditched the only Bluetooth speaker in its Beats subsidiary’s range, bluntly getting rid of the Beats Pill+. Although the company has yet to confirm the reason for the decision, Apple has steadily streamlined the Beats product line over the past year, having also discontinued the Powerbeats, Beats EP and Solo Pro headphones and earphones.
While canning the Beats Pill+ could be Apple’s way of making room for a new HomePod Bluetooth speaker, Gurman isn’t convinced, saying he’d be surprised if a smart speaker laptop was ever launched under the Apple name.
We’re less keen to rule out the possibility, however. After all, Apple has significantly expanded its line of audio devices in recent years, making waves in the true wireless headphone market with the AirPods and then dipping into the world of over-ear headphones with the AirPods Max.
Now that the HomePod lineup has been whittled down to a smaller version of its original smart speaker, there’s certainly an appetite for it – and the expectation that a new HomePod will launch in the near future.
Analysis: What’s next for Apple’s HomePod?
The Apple HomePod mini is a fantastic speaker in its own right, but its small size and low price make us doubt that Apple wouldn’t release a follow-up to its original flagship smart speaker in a bid to compete with more powerful models like the Amazon Echo Studio and the Sonos One.
Since Apple ditched the HomePod, we’ve seen a number of patents that might suggest the company is looking to create a new HomePod model – the so-called Apple HomePod 2 – and it might even come with a display, if rumors must be believed.
In a previous Bloomberg Report Gurman said that “before the larger HomePod was discontinued, the company was working on an updated version for release in 2022. It also developed new speakers with displays and cameras, but such a launch wouldn’t is not imminent”.
So there’s no guarantee that a new HomePod will be launched this year, but it’s obvious that Apple continues to explore what it can do in the wireless speaker arena.
We think it’s likely that any new HomePod will replace the company’s first smart speaker – and that means it’ll be big and powerful, and probably too heavy to be a portable Bluetooth speaker.
That’s not to say a portable HomePod is entirely out of the question. Either way, we’d be surprised to never see another Beats Bluetooth speaker. The subsidiary tends to offer products that are cheaper than Apple’s own line of devices, meaning the company has a presence in a wide swath of the audio market.
While Beats products generally work very well within the wider Apple ecosystem, they are also generally more operating system independent than the company’s own devices, with models like the Beats Fit Pro offering the same functionality to consumers. Android users and iOS device owners.
So we think a Bluetooth speaker under the Beats banner that isn’t tied to a specific ecosystem would work well, whereas a smart speaker that can switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth just screams “Apple – for us, anyway.
Either way, we hope Apple and Beats release new speakers in the near future. At the moment we only have the Apple HomePod mini, and as much as we love it, its audio performance doesn’t quite match that of Sonos’ wireless speakers – and we know to after the original HomePod that Apple can make fantastic sound out of the AirPods line of headphones and true wireless headphones.