The £299 audio device, which is available to pre-order and ships on February 3, will include sound recognition as part of a software update in the spring.
Apple says the tech will allow the speaker to “listen” for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and send a notification to your iPhone when such a sound is identified. For safety reasons, it says users should not rely on the speaker when people could be harmed or in emergency situations.
To use sound detection, you’ll need to update the Home app and ensure all your Apple devices that access smart home features are using the latest software.
Of course, the speaker is primarily built for audio. The device is the follow-up to Apple’s original HomePod, which landed in 2018 and was discontinued three years later. The original HomePod Mini from 2020 is still available for £99.
Like its predecessor, the new speaker features a rounded, cylindrical design with a mesh fabric.
We loved the sound on the original, and Apple is promising even better audio this time round. The new HomePod offers support for Apple’s 360-degree spatial audio format that provides directional sound. In essence, that means the audio will sound like it is placed around you, such as in front of you, from the sides, the rear and even above.
What’s more, Apple has crammed an array of audio gizmos into the guts of the 168 millimetre x 142 mm speaker. The audio tech includes a custom-engineered, high-excursion woofer; a 20mm, built-in bass-EQ mic; and a beamforming set of five tweeters around the base. Inside, there is also an S7 chip that applies computational smarts to further boost and refine the listening experience.
The backlit surface houses the speaker’s controls, although Apple is hoping you’ll use it with your voice — giving its neglected digital assistant Siri a chance to shine. One of the things Siri can help you with is smart home automations, allowing you to set up smart appliances to work automatically. For instance, you could program Siri to open the blinds every morning at sunrise. Thanks to the speaker’s new built-in temperature and humidity sensor, you can even set a compatible fan to start by itself when it gets too hot.
The new HomePod should play nicely with a whole host of other smart appliances and products, courtesy of its support for a new smart home ecosystem called Matter.