iWant: The Apple HomeBar

Homepods photo
I’ve been intrigued by Apple’s HomePod since it was released. The idea of a fairly high-end smart speaker fits squarely into the Apple product matrix of premium devices that leverage Apple services. The first HomePod, however, was mediocre. The sound wasn’t great, and Siri support was not what was expected. When Apple discontinued the HomePod after just two years, this was just a few months after they had introduced the HomePod mini, the cheaper, lower audio quality device that seemed to be designed mainly to compete with Amazon’s Echo, and suggesting that Apple was giving up on higher end devices. Then, in January of this year, another two years later, Apple released a second generation HomePod.

I didn’t think the original HomePod was very good; its audio quality was limited, especially because you could not apply EQ, and it was over priced. (Apple added a Reduce Bass option several months after the launch of the HomePod to remedy the overly Bassy sound.) I felt that Apple was trying to do too much with this device, and that it just didn’t fit peoples needs, especially with competition from brands like Sonos, who sell excellent speakers at lower prices.

I was surprised to find that the second generation HomePod sounds much better than the original model. It’s still expensive, at $299, but its ability to play spatial audio — enhanced if you have two HomePods in a stereo pair — makes it a compelling device for people who want to discover this new type of audio.

The HomePod lies at the intersection of Apple’s audio and smart home areas. With a wide range of headphones, with several AirPods, and many Beats headphones, Apple covers all bases. On the smart home front, they only had the HomePod mini, until this new larger HomePod was released.

You can use two HomePods with an Apple TV and get decent sound for films and TV shows in Dolby Atmos. Apple should go one step further and sell a sound bar that combines an Apple TV with a full Dolby Atmos speaker set and call it the HomeBar. This would be a compelling all-in-one device for anyone who wants to use an Apple TV and get better sound, and it would be easier to use than a pair of HomePods. (One power cord instead of three.) They could even sell a sub-woofer as an add-on, something that most soundbars need to reproduce audio for big movies correctly.

I don’t expect Apple to ever sell a TV set; it doesn’t seem like a product that fits with Apple’s marketing, and it would be hard to showcase in the many small Apple retail stores. But a device that adds all the Apple smarts to any TV would fit in perfectly with the company’s focus on original TV content, with Apple TV+, audio, with Apple Music, headphones, and HomePods, and with smart home management.