While Apple’s latest HomePod isn’t the huge leap forward that many expected for audio, a few things make the new smart speaker a worthwhile upgrade over the original. New smart home capabilities, ambient sensors, precision tracking, improved on-device interactivity, and Sound Recognition make the latest HomePod a perfect fit for those within the Apple ecosystem, especially those building a HomeKit or Matter home.
Here are five reasons why the new HomePod is a bigger deal than you might expect.
1. HomePod Is Now a True Smart Home Hub
Like the original HomePod, the second-generation HomePod can be set up as an Apple Home hub to make your smart home smarter. Smart hub functionality enables remote out-of-home access for all of your HomeKit accessories and allows you to tie all your devices together through scenes and automation.
For the second generation HomePod, Apple is expanding its home hub capabilities further by enabling Thread Border Routing for the smart speaker. Thread, the latest and greatest IoT standard, provides short-range wireless networking and promises interoperability between device manufacturers without additional hubs.
With Thread onboard, the newest HomePod now acts as a true smart home hub as it can pair devices directly through the Home app on your iOS devices. All it takes is a scan of a HomeKit or Matter accessory code, and within a few moments, it will connect to your smart home without entering Wi-Fi passwords or signing up for yet another account.
2. HomePod Packs a Pair of Ambient Sensors
Also on the smart home front, Apple’s latest HomePod packs in a pair of ambient sensors, which provide a better picture of your home’s climate. New temperature and humidity sensors in the HomePod allow for hands-free checks on-demand just by asking Siri, and both appear in the Home app so that you can put them to good use with automation.
For example, the HomePod’s temperature sensor can turn on a fan connected to a smart plug or set your smart thermostat to cool when a room gets too hot. The HomePod’s humidity sensors can also help to maintain moisture levels in your home in conjunction with a smart humidifier or dehumidifier.
3. HomePod Will Recognize Smoke and CO Alarms
Another smart home addition in the new HomePod is upcoming support for Sound Recognition. While it won’t arrive until later this year, Sound Recognition will allow the second-generation HomePod to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
As you might expect, if an active alarm occurs in your home, the HomePod will send a critical notification to your iOS devices, giving you time to react appropriately..
Combined with the ability to create a security alarm with HomePod and HomeKit, Apple’s speaker is quickly becoming an essential part of the modern smart home.
4. It’s Easier to See and Interact With HomePod
Although the design of the new HomePod remains relatively unchanged from the original, Apple made a few small tweaks that improve how you interact with the smart speaker. One is a larger edge-to-edge display that makes it easier to see if Siri is listening from a distance.
The larger display area on the HomePod also includes a set of “always-on” volume buttons. Like the HomePod mini, the second-generation HomePod’s volume buttons are etched onto the display area, forgoing the need to tap the device to bring up the controls.
5. HomePod Offers an Improved Handoff Experience
Handoff—the ability to transfer your music from your iPhone to the HomePod with a tap, was a marquee feature for the original HomePod. However, the experience was hit-and-miss for some, causing some frustrations.
With the latest generation HomePod, Apple is improving the experience by including a new U1 Ultra Wideband chip inside. The U1, which powers Apple’s popular AirTag item tracker, provides precision proximity detection when paired with a compatible iPhone.
The new HomePod’s Handoff is vastly superior to the original. The second-generation HomePod’s U1 detection can sometimes be too good, with the smart speaker picking up iPhones playing music or streaming video on-device from a few feet away. While it doesn’t interrupt the experience, you can see that the HomePod is active, with the display lighting up when it senses playback nearby.
Apple HomePod: Worthy of an Upgrade
As you can see, despite not being a massive improvement over the original in the sound department, Apple’s latest smart speaker is still a worthy upgrade—especially if you are building out your smart home. Thread Border Router capability turns the HomePod into a true smart home hub ready for the future, and onboard ambient sensors bring added functionality that can give valuable insights into your home.
Other improvements, such as the larger display with always-on volume controls and U1 chip, make interacting with the new HomePod easier and more intuitive. And, once it gets a software update, the second-gen HomePod’s ability to listen for smoke and co alarms may provide some extra peace of mind when you are out and about.