It’s all but confirmed that Apple’s been working on a Max version of their HomePod speaker. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo mentioned earlier this year that Apple has internally developed their larger HomePod model, but has held back on releasing it – with a hopeful debut by or before 2024. Hinting at a possible 7-inch display (although there’s a fair chance 7 inches may fall short for the kinds of applications Kuo has mentioned), the analyst and credible rumor expert said: “The HomePod, which equips a panel, could enable tighter integration with Apple’s other hardware products, marking a significant shift in the company’s smart home strategy.”
While we await Apple’s Scary Fast event scheduled for October 30th, here’s a look at what this bigger HomePod could possibly look like. Apple did give the original HomePod a refresh this year, which means the HomePod Mini is due for a refresh too. The company hasn’t upgraded the AirPods Max in years either, so now seems like the best time to debut the new HomePod Max – a speaker that champions Apple’s product ecosystem while being an audiophile’s best friend and a truly versatile smart-home accessory.
Designer: Sarang Sheth
For a device with a $300 price tag, the HomePod has sure felt slightly disappointing – not in terms of audio, but rather in terms of that limited circular display on top. The circular display has served no purpose apart from visualizing Siri’s voice through gradients, and allowing users to toggle playback and control volume. A larger display on a larger speaker opens up a variety of possibilities. For starters, it opens up the possibility for a much more comprehensive interface that can alternate between playing music, providing a more visual Siri experience, serving as a smart Apple Home dashboard, and being the perfect device for Apple’s latest iOS trick – the Standby Mode.
Current HomePods don’t really exploit their display to its full potential, but simply expanding that display wouldn’t necessarily work. Having an upward-facing screen is a usability issue because people need to walk up to it to really see what’s on it. Conversely, having a screen facing frontwards ends up compromising on the speaker’s front-firing capabilities. The optimal solution, is a tilted display that’s easy to view from a distance while still facing directly at you up close. It’s easy to tap on and interact with, and doesn’t impede the HomePod Max’s ability to disperse 360° audio all across your room.
Other HomePod Max features include the kind you’d find on your iPhone or iPad. The device’s screen serves as a neat display for all sorts of actionable information. Apart from the Standby Mode, the HomePod Max also displays the weather, shows you a more intuitive chat UI with Siri, allows you to monitor aspects of your smart home, and even enables synchronization with Apple TV aside from Apple Music.
The HomePod Max seems like the only natural progression for Apple’s speaker range. Every product that Apple has launched a ‘Mini’ version of has seen a Max version too. The Mac Mini got a Mac Studio last year, the iPad Mini has had a larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the iPhone Mini series, although discontinued, has a rival in the ‘Plus’ variant of the phone. Similarly, the HomePod Max gives the HomePod and HomePod Mini a bigger sibling, while doubling down on a whole slew of features that the other HomePods don’t have.
Would this mean being able to pair multiple HomePods as a part of a 2.1 or 5.1 setup? Well, Apple’s a true master of Spatial Audio, and HomePods have been known to sync up rather well, so it’s entirely conceivable that the HomePod Max could serve as a thundering woofer while the smaller HomePods become tweeters to complete the experience. The entire experience is further enhanced by the fact that Apple’s speakers can calculate the size of the room and their relative position in it, optimizing sound in the process. Pair this with Apple TV, or even better, with the Vision Pro and you have perhaps the most immersive movie-watching experience money can buy!
A definitive launch date for Apple’s ‘bigger’ HomePod isn’t clear although Ming-Chi Kuo and other analysts have pretty much guaranteed that the company’s been working hard at a bigger HomePod and that it’s arriving sooner rather than later. Ming-Chi Kuo also has it on good authority that supplier Tianma will be developing the display panel for this HomePod Max. Until then, let’s see what Apple has in store for us come Monday, October the 3oth!