Love it or loathe it, everyone can pretty much agree that the HomePod 2 sounds great. The HomePod mini sounds brilliant considering its small size, too. And while we can all probably also agree that Siri really lets the side down when it comes to any and all HomePods, I'd posit that it isn't the biggest issue. And it appears that Apple might agree.
While it's fair to say that Siri has its problems and that it's years behind the competition from Google and even Amazon, the HomePods that we have in our house could all benefit from something new. Something that no HomePod has had to date. And something that Apple is reportedly testing right now.
That thing? A proper touchscreen display and a new report claims that Apple is testing exactly that. It just might not be going about it in quite the way that you'd expect it to.
Apple TV and iPad mini to the rescue
So what's Apple got up its sleeve? According to a 9to5Mac report, it's hard at work on some sort of Frankenstein's monster of a device. The report says that there are signs that Apple is testing running a version of tvOS on an iPad mini, all with the aim of then turning that into some sort of HomePod with a display. And I, dear reader, am here for it. Bring it on.
This all comes from the first tvOS 17.2 beta that landed last week, with the report saying that there is code within that update that suggests it can be run on an iPad mini, at least inside Apple.
"Interestingly, by digging into the firmware of tvOS 17.2 – the system that runs on both Apple TV and HomePod – we found strong evidence that Apple is internally running tvOS on the iPad," 9to5Mac reports. It goes on, saying that "every firmware released by Apple includes device support files that specify which devices the software can be installed on. When it comes to tvOS, this includes compatible Apple TV models, as well as HomePods." The interesting part? "For some reason, the latest tvOS builds also have device support files for the iPad mini 6."
There's also support for the iPad mini 6 in the tvOS 17 SDK and Xcode 15, too. All of this appears to confirm that Apple, at least at some point, wanted to make tvOS 17.x run on an iPad mini.
A future HomePod laid bare
The obvious jump from here is that Apple is testing the Apple TV interface on an iPad in order to get it ready for a touch-based interface, as would be required from a HomePod. If that's the case, it's notable that Apple doesn't appear to be going the route of simply using a version of iPadOS instead — it wants a home entertainment feel rather than the familiar iPadOS interface.
Both would likely work, as far as I can see, but the use of tvOS underpinnings would suggest Apple wants the HomePod to be a device people watch content on — otherwise the decision makes little sense.
Personally, I'd just like to be able to see what timers the HomePod is running and perhaps see something saved in Notes, like a recipe. The use of tvOS suggests that might not be an option, but we'll have to wait and see before we can pass judgment on whatever Apple has cooking. I just hope this device will do more than just display videos and probably some Apple Music lyrics.
The main thing? Apple has something cooking. And it smells like a HomePod with a seven-inch or so display attached to it. And that'll do nicely, thank you very much.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.