And when you dig deeper, things get even weirder. In fact, the new HomePod is very different from the original model, but in subtle and confusing ways that won’t be noticeable to anyone buying one. Here are five facts about the new HomePod that have us scratching our heads:
Apple redesigned it to look the same
At first glance (and second and third), the second-generation HomePod appears to be identical to the original model. It has the same circular structure, outer grille, and screen, but there are slight differences. For one, it’s 4mm shorter and 200g lighter. The screen at the top is a bit recessed now, and the screen is larger and easier to see. The “seamless mesh fabric” from the original model is now “acousto-transparent mesh fabric” and extends slightly over the top. There’s a new Midnight color that looks more like a slightly darker shade of Space Gray. However, none of the changes would make much of a visual difference unless you were comparing a new one and an old one side by side, so it seems odd that Apple would go to the trouble of redesigning the HomePod in such small ways.
You cannot create a stereo pair with a first-generation HomePod
One of the HomePod’s best features is its ability to create a stereo pair that “plays every channel in perfect harmony, creating a wider and more immersive sound range than traditional stereo speakers.” It’s not a new feature, but there’s a catch: You can’t pair a new HomePod with an old one. For the stereo pair to work, you’ll need two of the same HomePods: the first generation with the first generation; miniature with miniature; 2nd gen with 2nd gen. It makes sense that the two have different specs, but it sure would have been nice if Apple figured out a way to get the two to play well together.
It uses an Apple Watch chip instead of an iPhone
The original HomePod used Apple’s A8 processor, which debuted in the iPhone 6 a few years ago, as “the brains behind advanced audio innovations.” When the HomePod mini arrived a few years later, Apple used the Apple Watch Series 5’s S5 chip to “achieve big sound from such a compact design.” The second generation HomePod also uses an Apple Watch chip, the Apple Watch Series 7’s S7 processor, “to deliver more advanced computational audio.” That’s all well and good, but it’s hard not to think the A12 or A13 will provide a bit of future proofing.
It still has a built-in power cable
One of the biggest shortcomings of the original HomePod was the built-in power cable — mainly because people naturally tried to unplug it and sometimes ended up damaging their speakers. It’s possible that Apple changed the connector to prevent this from happening, but based on the photos, the HomePod still has the same power cable permanently attached to the back of the device. Switching to a magnetic connector like the 24-inch iMac would have been a nice improvement.
Supports slower Wi-Fi than iPhone 6
Oddly enough, the new HomePod still has Bluetooth 5 instead of 5.3 (as found on newer Macs and iPhones), but it actually has slower Wi-Fi than the original model. According to the technical specifications, the first HomePod supported 802.11ac, otherwise known as Wi-Fi 5, while the newer HomePod uses Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n). Maybe Wi-Fi 6E is too demanding when newer iPhones don’t support it, but we were surprised to see the new HomePod use a Wi-Fi standard as old as the iPhone 4.
The sound specification seems to be inferior
Here’s the weirdest thing — judging by the audio specs, the new HomePod isn’t as good as the original model. While it certainly “offers next-level audio” as Apple claims, a quick comparison of the tech specs shows fewer horn-loaded speakers (five versus seven) and microphones (four versus six). Of course, not all speakers and microphones are made the same and audio processing counts for a lot. It’s very possible that Apple could get equal or better sound from fewer speakers and mics — but oddly enough, after two years, the old HomePod is better than the new one on paper.