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The new HomePod has a lot of new tech compared to the old 2018 HomePod it replaces — but see how it compares before you shell out the $300.
Apple discontinued the original large HomePod in March 2021 to “focus on the HomePod mini.” The niche smart home speaker never seemed to reach critical mass, and the steep price tag was usually to blame.
Jump ahead to January 2023, and there’s a new HomePod for the same $300 price as the original. Apple says it has “incredible audio quality” without claiming whether or not it improves on the original.
The new HomePod will ship to customers on February 3rd, so we can’t determine the sound quality until then. For now, here’s how the two generations compare on the spec sheets.
New HomePod vs Original HomePod – Specs
|spec||HomePod 2023||HomePod 2018|
|speaker||High excursion woofer
5 horn-loaded tweeters
|High excursion woofer
7 horn-loaded tweeters
thread with matter
|Colours||White, midnight||White, space grey|
On the outside very little has changed between the two generations apart from a small height adjustment and the switch from Space Gray to Midnight. However, the internal speaker arrays, sensors and chipsets have all been updated.
New HomePod vs. original HomePod design
At 5.16 pounds, the HomePod 2023 is a few ounces lighter than the original at 5.5 pounds. It’s also 0.2 inches shorter.
These height and weight adjustments are likely due to Apple reducing the number of tweeters from seven to five. The number of microphones was also reduced by two from six to four.
The mesh fabric is made from 100% recycled materials. The design is similar across both generations, but the top is slightly flatter with a more dynamic touch surface – the colorful waveform now extends to the edge.
Apple has moved the dark HomePod’s colors from Space Gray to midnight. This means that the new color should be a subtle shade of blue.
The original HomePod’s power cord was technically detachable, although it wasn’t intended to be done by the user. We’ve learned that the new HomePod’s power cord is easily detachable, which is an improvement over the original model.
That’s unlike the HomePod mini, which has a non-detachable cable that ends in USB-C and is powered by at least one 18W USB-C adapter.
New HomePod vs Original HomePod – Audio
Apple’s descriptions of its new speaker system don’t offer many details on how it compares to the previous generation. There’s still a large, high-excursion woofer for the main speaker and a bank of tweeters around the base.
There are two fewer tweeters, but they serve the same purpose. Background noise and certain frequencies are reproduced through the tweeters to ensure room-filling sound.
Apple says there’s an all-new system sensor that runs complex tuning models in real time to preserve dynamic range and maximize acoustic performance. The original HomePod performed real-time audio adjustments with its microphones, but it’s not clear if it had an older version of the system sensor or if it’s a new creation.
Both generations of HomePod can understand how the speaker is placed in a room by using its microphones to listen for sound reflections. The sound is automatically adjusted based on the position of the speaker.
Audio quality is also determined by how well the speaker can process information. Computational audio is improved with better chipsets, which made a huge leap from the original HomePod to the new one.
New HomePod versus Original HomePod technology
The HomePod is a complex system of speakers, microphones, sensors and a central processor. They are all linked together using advanced machine learning algorithms.
The S7, which powers the new HomePod, was released for the Apple Watch Series 7 in 2021. That’s two generations newer than the S5 in the HomePod mini and almost a decade newer than the A8 used in the original HomePod.
This generational leap in processing is likely to affect the sound reproduction. So even with a similar woofer and fewer tweeters, the new HomePod is said to deliver much better sound.
This effect is amplified when the new HomePods are used in stereo. Algorithms that generate spatial audio work better on the newer processor.
Apple also specifically names Room Awareness and System Awareness as separate technologies, while the original HomePod grouped them under Computational Audio. It appears Apple has designed specific sensors for each system on the new HomePod, but that won’t be clear until teardowns and testing are complete.
The new HomePod uses 802.11n Wi-Fi because a smart speaker doesn’t need to communicate with the faster Wi-Fi 6 standard. The original had 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
The new model features a Thread radio with Matter support and Ultra Wideband for improved connectivity and pairing.
New HomePod vs Original HomePod – Smart Home and Siri
The HomePod has always been marketed as a home for Siri and Homekit. Users have access to most of Siri’s features through the smart speaker and can even ask to ping lost devices.
In general, the way a user addresses Siri or controls their smart home doesn’t change across HomePod generations. However, there are some differences in the range of the device in terms of sensors and technology.
The new HomePod has an internal temperature and humidity sensor that can be addressed in the Home app. Users can also ask Siri about the room temperature or set up an automation based on HomePod’s room data.
The inclusion of Thread radios and Matter support also changes what the HomePod is capable of in the smart home. This means owners of the new HomePod can take advantage of Matter products that require a hub, and the Thread radio will also improve signal from other Thread-enabled devices.
Improved algorithms thanks to the better processor also mean that new software features are available for the new HomePod. An update in the spring will add intelligent sound detection to HomePod and HomePod mini, alerting users to specific alarm tones or other sounds.
2nd Gen HomePod vs Original – Prices and Where to Buy
Although many analysts point to the price of the original HomePod as its ultimate failure, Apple has stuck with the price. The new HomePod retails for $299, which is the same price as the original when it was discontinued.