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Apple Discontinues Original HomePod, Focuses on HomePod mini

After four years of disappointing sales, Apple has discontinued the original HomePod and will focus its efforts on the HomePod mini (see “Apple Introduces $99 HomePod mini,” 13 October 2020). The company provided a statement to Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch, saying:

HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.

Although the HomePod was a tremendous feat of engineering and delivered excellent sound, it wasn’t price-competitive with smart speakers from Amazon and Google at either its original price of $349 or the $299 to which Apple later dropped it (see “Beyond Music: Comparing the HomePod to Amazon Echo and Google Home,” 15 March 2018). It was often on sale for $199, and when TidBITS managing editor Josh Centers bought one at that price, it had been on the shelf so long that it was several iOS versions behind.

HomePod on a shelf

Price really does seem to have been what dragged down HomePod sales, given that the $99 HomePod mini has been selling well. For that $99, the HomePod mini compares extremely well with its larger sibling. It boasts surprisingly good audio for its size and nearly all the features of the HomePod, including support for stereo pairs and the capability to act as a HomeKit hub. The HomePod mini may even do better at handing off audio, thanks to its U1 Ultra Wideband chip.

Showing proximity with the HomePod mini

The main advantages the HomePod has over the HomePod mini are:

  • Better sound, based on its larger, more capable audio components
  • Spatial awareness, which enables the HomePod to adjust its audio to match the characteristics of the room
  • A “home theater with Apple TV 4K” feature that relies on the HomePod’s spatial awareness to add an immersive home theater experience

It’s easy to say that Apple overpriced the HomePod. However, it’s probably more fair to say that Apple overengineered it and thus had to charge a premium price to account for both the initial investment and the manufacturing costs. That plays into the narrative of Apple charging too much in certain product categories, such as with the Apple TV, whose $149 and $179 price points are notably higher than competing streaming media products from Amazon, Google, and Roku.

However, such a narrative falls down in other seemingly similar categories. Both the AirPods and AirPods Pro have been huge hits, despite steep $159 and $249 prices and ever more competitors. Plus, the new AirPods Max headphones, which retail for an eye-watering $549—hundreds of dollars more than comparable products—appear to be selling well, if shipping delays are anything to go by (see “Apple’s AirPods Max Headphones Are Pricey but Good,” 15 March 2021).

We’ve enjoyed our HomePods immensely, and it seems likely that Apple will ensure that they’re useful for years to come. It may be sad to see the HomePod be discontinued, but it’s better that Apple acknowledge the reality of a slow-selling product and focus on the more compelling HomePod mini.

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Comments About Apple Discontinues Original HomePod, Focuses on HomePod mini

Notable Replies

  1. I’m already dreading the day when they stop receiving software updates. The spatially aware, truly high-grade sound is really compelling, and with stereo mode, my great room is bathed in gorgeous sound that holds up for hours and hours. I have four of them, none of which I paid the original $350 for, and I hope to keep using them for years.

  2. Yes, how do we go about that? I’m new here.

  3. Well that sucks. I’ve always lusted after a pair, but was (initially) put off by nil 3.5 audio input so I could run my iPods through it (I know, old school), but everyone else seems to be going with Bluetooth, so I’m fine now with that. But it was the pricing that I couldn’t come at, and just checking the Apple Australia website, they are selling for AU$469 each, so a pair for stereo would set me back AU$938. Ouch. Disappointed, to say the least.

  4. I excitedly bought two homepods and have been nothing but disapointed. I’ll list my frustrations here;

    1. Wifi is spotty and really there should be an ethernet option. Wifi is not production ready afaic. Anyone who really cares about their network connection uses a wired/cabled one. The HP wifi kind of sucks. Lot’s of drop outs and just failures to do what you expect; like a play a song, or answer a siri question. Often the homepod is just not available to play things on.

    2. HP is very slow to respond to changes from the source. e.g. one ends up overshooting or undershooting volume changes all the time. Song changes feel like they didn’t happen, then just as you click another song, the prior song starts playing.

    3. Stereo pairing really only reliably works with Apple Music. I’m a Spotify user. Stereo paring doesn’t work at all from a Mac running Spotify. This is probably the single biggest failing, and fu to users.

    4. Siri is a joke. I’ve been waiting for what feels like a decade for Apple to deliver on the supposed promise and smarts of Siri. It lags far behind other assistants.

    5. Inability to change default music service. My $350 homepod can’t play a song on Spotify if I ask it to, but my $29 alexa sure can.

    6. Sound quality is not that great. I bought the pair on the promise of the sound quality, and tbh, it’s just not that great. Maybe if they did Stereo it would help.

    7. I hate Bluetooth even more than I hate wifi, but it’s the de facto standard for connecting to audio output devices. I get the the whole airplay thing but the hoops users and developers have to go through to make it work end up really hurting the usability of the product. As the appointed ‘tech person’ in the house, after finally getting everyone trained up and used to the idea of using bluetooth for playing audio, the mind-f* of explaining a different protocol and philosophy to connecting is like asking cats to screw in a light bulb.

    8. The home app for controlling homepods is awful just an awful shoveled together grouping of weird and unresponsive ui features. The worst of which being the essentially hidden update option. “update” was important to me because I kept hoping Apple was going to make things better so I updated as often as possible.

    In summary, HomePod just doesn’t live up to the hype. I wish it did, I really do and I held out for years hoping Apple would fix most/all of the problems above. They didn’t and that’s their prerogative, and I’m disappointed.

  5. Seems like you have Homepod wifi issues. The Homepod has a bad reputation with “smart” wifi. Try different (simpler) router settings.
    Stereo only works from iTunes/Music on a Mac which is irritating. I works with Airplay on iOS devives.
    I agree that Siri is disappointing but hopefully It will be fixed.

  6. Over the weekend Apple has discontinued the original Homepod. In Australia orders are still being taken “while stocks last”.
    I feel the rug has been pulled from under me, like the time Apple abandoned Airport hardware.
    It has taken years for Apple to get tvOS and Homepod OS to behave as an integrated home theatre system. Now there will be no replacement Homepods from Apple if there is a hardware failure.
    Grrr!

  7. I’d like to feel more upset about this, because I’ve been wanting to buy HomePods for years now. But Apple never released them in New Zealand at all—goodness knows why.

  8. They’re stilling the mini though. Is there anything it can’t do that the regular HP did?

  9. I have two HomePods used as a stereo pair and a HomePod mini. Aside from not sounding quite as good, I can’t think of anything the mini can’t do. From what I’ve read, it has an extra radio intended for controlling “Internet of things” type stuff, so it can actually do more.

  10. Homepod vs Homepod Mini:

    1. Full sound capability, with a good bass speaker
    2. Auto-calibration for the room
    3. Home Theatre integration with Apple TV 4K
    4. According to reports, more reliable as a Homekit hub
  11. is it possible there is a newer version in the works? HomePod2 Pro or something?

  12. I doubt it - this Macrumours article reports that sales of the original Homepod have been poor. Maybe cutting the price would have helped!

    Anyway, I have placed an order with Apple Australia to make sure I have a spare (which can be used downstairs). I guess they will become popular on ebay.

  13. I just purchased a HP Mini to try out, and it looks like its “computational audio” is going to be a deal breaker for me–at least until they supply them with some form of tone control or EQ. I want to use it primarily as an intelligent radio for my kitchen, but its reproduction of NPR’s male speaking voices is to my ears very unpleasant, chesty and boomy. At first I thought I might be dealing with boundary effect, but it’s the same no matter where I put it (or my head). I suspect it’s too smart for that sort of tactic and that whatever “bass extension” algorithm they’re using to make (pop) music sound (fairly) good wherever you put it is somehow overemphasizing the 125Hz octave. Too bad, I guess I’ll be returning it.

  14. We have a stereo pair of HomePods with our AppleTV 4K. And they’re stunning. I’m sorry to see them go. Hopefully Apple keep their focus on audio and the technology behind it.

  15. Yes, that’s easy and I’ve done it. Spaced on doing it yesterday.

  16. I have the Apple TV 4K & a pair of homepods and was using it with great joy until the last tvOS and HomePod OS update.

    The link to the homepods stopped and then one of the homepods got bricked. It no longer turns on. So now I’m left with only one HomePod without the Apple TV 4K connection.

    I contacted Apple for support to be advised to bring in the broken HomePod to my local store (Edinburgh) whenever they open again.

    I have been using Apple kit since the Apple // and over the years I have noticed the failure of software on all my devices. The quality of work is appalling. I also have a Dell laptop with windows 7 Pro and MS Office etc. And I don’t get nearly as many failures, crashes or freezes. I was going to replace my MBP 17” with the latest MBP 16” with the newer M1 chip but I think I may just got for a Dell.

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