Around this time last year, Apple officially discontinued the HomePod. The original model has been survived by the HomePod mini, but there isn't a product in Apple's current lineup that fills the gap left by the 2018 model.
Though Apple has publicly said that it discontinued the larger HomePod to focus on the mini version, it's entirely possible that the company is working on an updated model in the background. There are plenty of use cases where a new, larger HomePod might outshine its diminutive counterpart.
HomePod x Spatial Audio
Since the death of the original HomePod, Apple has gone all-in on Lossless and Spatial Audio for Apple Music. The original HomePod was not the best smart assistant on the market, and it certainly wasn't priced like one, but it was among the best wireless speakers you could pick up for $350 and its tight integration with Apple Music made it the speaker of choice for Apple fans.
With Apple doubling down on audio quality in the last year or so, it would be surprising if the company didn't put some attention back on its larger, audiophile-focused HomePod in order to reignite the product line around Dolby Atmos and entertainment use cases.
Both the HomePod and HomePod mini support Lossless audio, with Spatial Audio only working on the larger HomePod model. The problem is, you can't pick up the larger HomePod from any official sources right now and the market for second-hand or refurbished models has pushed prices way up.
Speaking of entertainment, another popular use for HomePod speakers is as the output for Apple TV, making for an immersive audio experience no matter what you're watching.
The experience used to be fiddly, but it has improved with newer tvOS releases. A pair of HomePod speakers will certainly sound better than the speakers built into your TV so it's worth taking the time to set this up if you have HomePods in the same room as your Apple TV.
That being said, neither the HomePod or HomePod mini were designed to be TV speakers and has instead had this functionality added post-launch. A dedicated soundbar or surround sound system is still going to do a better job than a pair of HomePod speakers, but that doesn't have to be the case.
Bloomberg's usually reliable reporter Mark Gurman suggested last year that Apple is working on some kind of HomePod and Apple TV combo to fill this popular role. To me, it would make total sense for a HomePod SKU to go in this direction and could enable Apple to nail the home entertainment experience with this all-in-one device.
HomePod with a screen
Also oft-rumored is Apple's mythical HomePod with a screen. The use case for this type of device has already been proven with the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home both being popular among users of those ecosystems.
There are plenty of spots in the house where a glanceable display is advantageous. Whether your hands are full or it's not ideal to be shouting questions out into the ether, seeing information is often more useful than having to request it and wait for it to be read out by Siri.
I've written before about how an Apple TV working as a smart home information center when idle might be useful or how a larger iPad model might open up some interesting HomeKit use cases, but ultimately a dedicated smart speaker with a screen would fill the gap I'm trying to plug with two different products there.
Here's to hoping for a future HomePod
Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference will likely take place in June so we may get some insight into Apple's HomePod and HomeKit plans there, though any new HomePod product launch would likely be saved for the fall to make the most of the pre-holiday buying season.
While we can't be certain of Apple's plans, or lack thereof, we know that the smart home market is only getting bigger. Technologies like Matter and Thread are only going to make the smart home more reliable and accessible, too.
Apple's HomePod mini is great, but it doesn't work for every use case. If Apple wants to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google on the smart home hardware front, it's going to need other HomePod products to sit alongside and complement its existing offering.
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Adam Oram is a Senior Writer at iMore. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as an Apple Genius and as a Deals Editor at Thrifter. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.