(Pocket-lint) – Apple has announced that it is discontinuing the original HomePod. It has decided to put its efforts into the smaller, cheaper, HomePod mini. It has decided that smaller in this case doesn’t necessarily mean better – but it does mean more popular.
But how has the goal of making the best speaker on the market come to an abrupt end just three years after it burst on to the scene in 2018?
Like most things, there wasn’t one silver bullet, but a number of missteps along the way that have meant the original HomePod just never caught on as its makers intended.
Six years in the making, the Apple HomePod followed the also-failed Apple iPod Hi-Fi. This time, Apple told us during a tour of the company’s audio lab in 2018, things would be different.
The team had gone back to the drawing board, with the plan to make a speaker that could beat everything else on the market.
And that single-minded focus certainly bore the fruit it was after. The HomePod sounded fantastic, even more so when you added a second one to create a stereo pair, but moving beyond the sound and things weren’t so rosy.
The £349 / $349 speaker lacked Bluetooth or any way to connect a device other than via AirPlay, Apple’s own technology limiting its appeal to Apple users.
Then was the news that it could only play Apple Music, the company’s own brand music service. Fancy listening to Spotify? You can’t. Fancy a bit of BBC radio? No, thank you.
While Apple Music is enjoying more success today, at the time it was still very much the newcomer in the market and the lack of connectivity on a speaker that was at least twice, if not three times, the price of the nearest competitor was concerning to say the least.
And then there was the final issue. For all that focus on sound, Apple forgot about making it truly smart. Siri was included of course, but compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, Siri just couldn’t offer the same intelligent experience.
Over the last three years we’ve seen a number of new features and improvements – most recently the ability to turn the HomePod into a home theatre offering for Apple TV supporting Dolby Atmos – but it’s clearly not been enough to move the needle and allow it to thrive.
And so, with the launch of the HomePod mini in November 2020, the original HomePod’s days are numbered.
“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,” explained Apple in a statement to Pocket-lint. “We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last.”
The HomePod mini offers the almost all the same features and functionality as the bigger speaker, but for a fraction of the price. At £99 / $99 they are also cheap enough to chuck in the kid’s bedrooms without feeling like you’ve broken the bank, and it’s probably this along with the plug in and go mentality that has found them flying off the shelves.
Apple has found out the hard way that most people don’t want an expensive speaker, but one that simply sounds good enough to get the party started.
Does that mean that HomePod is reduced to just the mini? Don’t rule out an expansion in the range just yet.
Apple’s “trickle up” approach has worked incredibly well for the company over the years. AirPods spawned the AirPods Pro. The iPad grew up to be the iPad Pro, while the iPhone now comes in iPhone Pro flavours too.
While the original HomePod clearly didn’t capture people’s imagination perhaps a HomePod mini Pro could.
Give it a £199 / $199 price point in a design that’s similar but slightly bigger and you could encourage those who are enjoying the HomePod mini to upgrade. As Apple has found, that’s a much easier sell, and one that could turn the department around.
The original HomePod might be discontinued, but don’t for a minute expect that to mean Apple is giving up on music.
Writing by Stuart Miles. Editing by Chris Hall.