Apple's next HomePod could be a desktop or TV sound bar

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware

While most HomePod rumors have claimed that Apple will add a screen to a future model, new research shows the company is thinking about making it a horizontal sound bar.

Illustration of a generic capsule pill in grayscale with dotted lines indicating dimensions.
Proposed horizontal HomePod



The HomePod mini hasn't changed since its launch in 2020. Apart from its cancellation and then rebirth, the original HomePod hasn't changed a great deal since it was announced in 2017.

So you'd think that it was Apple's second-least regarded product after the Apple Pencil. Behind the scenes, the company keeps plotting.

Previously, and repeatedly, we've heard of HomePods with large touch screens coming some day, although never quite today. There have also been patents showing a kind of display woven into the fabric surrounding the HomePod, and that fabric might be touch-sensitive.

But now Apple has been granted a patent concerning the design of what looks like just a horizontal HomePod. Instead of the cylinder of the original, and the tennis-ball like HomePod mini, this version has speakers spread wide away from a central Siri display, and tilted at an angle.

The newly-granted patent, called "Audio Speaker System," is extremely brief. Aside from short captions for its six drawings, the only text describes the patent as being for "The ornamental design for an audio speaker system, as shown and described."

Those six drawings, though, also hint at this being a HomePod that users could connect other sources too. Tantalizingly labelled only as "a rear view thereof," one figure shows a range of ports.

A simplified schematic of a device with a curved shape and dotted texture, possibly representing speakers and buttons.
One patent drawing shows a series of ports on the rear



At present, nothing whatsoever can be connected to a shipping HomePod except the power cable. There are no ports, no sockets, and so no potential for DJs to connect turntables to the HomePod.

It's debatable which would be more welcome in a future HomePod, the ability to connect other sources, or the wider, less tall speaker arrangement.

While there's no scale in the drawings, the size of what appears to be the Siri screen suggests that this would be at least more akin to the full-size HomePod than the HomePod mini.

But then the shape of the design is also at least reminiscent of the Beats Pill range of speakers. The drawings lack the control surface of the Pill, and the rear is only vaguely similar, but it is possible that the patent is for a potential Beats product.

It's not surprising that there should be similarities, though, because one of the two credited inventors on this patent is Robert Brunner. He was Apple's design chief from 1989 to 1996, and since then has worked with Pentagram and Ammunition Group, both of which have created headphones for Beats.

Side view of the proposed wide, horizontal HomePod
Side view of the proposed wide, horizontal HomePod



Note, though, the presence of a granted patent is no evidence that a product is coming from either Beats or Apple. It is evidence that Apple has at least spent some time designing such a model, though.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    I'd probably buy that, depending on the degree of "Apple ridiculousness" in the price.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    If it doesn't cost too much, I probably would buy it to replace the stereo HomePod mini pair we have as our living room sound system currently. OTOH, our old sound bar took up a lot of space that we've enjoyed having back since switching it out.
    watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 3 of 9
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 3,080member
    It does seem like this product line (speakers) is ripe for expansion by Apple. The sound quality for the HomePod mini is indeed impressive, but as the article points out, it isn't very versatile. I bought a 20w battery charger just to make it portable.

    IIRC, AppleTV still has an optical out port, so adding a optical in port to this would seem to solve some of the lag issues with the Apple TV, but maybe just skippit and put the actual guts of an AppleTV into this device, and connect it with HDMI to a HDTV. With an ethernet port, and add (dare is suggest it again) an updated Airport mesh system. Now all that smart home stuff lives right on your HDTV where it belongs. 
    watto_cobraappleinsideruserAlex1N
  • Reply 4 of 9
    pdnoblepdnoble Posts: 31member
    The killer product would, from my POV, be a high performance sound bar with Apple TV and FaceTime camera and microphone. 
    williamlondondewmewatto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 5 of 9
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,416member
    I hope some version of this comes to fruition. Definitely needs to support HDMI ARC.

    Speaking of low hanging fruit, a wireless subwoofer for the HomePod mini would fill a gap in the mini's otherwise stellar performance for its size, especially when configured as part of a stereo pair. The HomePod mini is actually quite impressive when used in stereo pairs. It's just a bit lacking in the bass department. A sub would fix that.

    If Apple does a soundbar form factor HomePod and a HomePod wireless subwoofer it world be absolutely great if existing HomePods, mini and maxi, could be used as wireless rear/satellite speakers to form 5.1, 7.1 etc., setups. The HomePod maxi has pretty good bass as is, so perhaps it could serve as a stand-in for part of the sub functionality. It may not be able to totally fill in as a sub because of its frequency response, but it may still be more than suitable for many Apple customers. Bringing all of these HomePod related components together would seemingly allow Apple to bring its spatial audio experience to larger spaces, like a home media room, home theatre, small auditorium, super man cave, etc. 
    watto_cobraMexicoOvertheWallAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 9
    pdnoble said:
    The killer product would, from my POV, be a high performance sound bar with Apple TV and FaceTime camera and microphone. 
    I agree -- would buy a few of them in a second.  But this ain't it -- this a Beats Pill. bummer.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 9
    If they make this a sound bar I think it would be insane not to put an Apple TV in it as well. 

    Heck, they could have the HomePod mini, the 2’d gen HomePod, the TheatrePod/CinemaPod, and then the HomeStick leave Apple TV branding for TV+ and brand all of Apple’s home offerings as some variant of a HomePod. Make a stick for people who just want the Apple interface on another TV, and have the HomePod for people who want a home theatre experience. Realistically I’m not even sure it makes sense to keep selling separate HomePods without HDMI out. 

    Honestly you might even wanna allow for HDMI in so that you don’t have to worry about ARC or eARC or anything, just let the HomePod allow your other devices to connect to the TV through it. Maybe even offer low latency ML power upscaling for old consoles?
    Alex1N
  • Reply 8 of 9
    dewme said:
    I hope some version of this comes to fruition. Definitely needs to support HDMI ARC.

    Speaking of low hanging fruit, a wireless subwoofer for the HomePod mini would fill a gap in the mini's otherwise stellar performance for its size, especially when configured as part of a stereo pair. The HomePod mini is actually quite impressive when used in stereo pairs. It's just a bit lacking in the bass department. A sub would fix that.

    If Apple does a soundbar form factor HomePod and a HomePod wireless subwoofer it world be absolutely great if existing HomePods, mini and maxi, could be used as wireless rear/satellite speakers to form 5.1, 7.1 etc., setups. The HomePod maxi has pretty good bass as is, so perhaps it could serve as a stand-in for part of the sub functionality. It may not be able to totally fill in as a sub because of its frequency response, but it may still be more than suitable for many Apple customers. Bringing all of these HomePod related components together would seemingly allow Apple to bring its spatial audio experience to larger spaces, like a home media room, home theatre, small auditorium, super man cave, etc. 
    Supermans Fortress of Solitude in Mexico  The Fairytale Traveler
    Sorry, saw the words "super man cave" and couldn't help myself.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 9 of 9
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 3,080member
    If they make this a sound bar I think it would be insane not to put an Apple TV in it as well. 

    Heck, they could have the HomePod mini, the 2’d gen HomePod, the TheatrePod/CinemaPod, and then the HomeStick leave Apple TV branding for TV+ and brand all of Apple’s home offerings as some variant of a HomePod. Make a stick for people who just want the Apple interface on another TV, and have the HomePod for people who want a home theatre experience. Realistically I’m not even sure it makes sense to keep selling separate HomePods without HDMI out. 

    Honestly you might even wanna allow for HDMI in so that you don’t have to worry about ARC or eARC or anything, just let the HomePod allow your other devices to connect to the TV through it. Maybe even offer low latency ML power upscaling for old consoles?
    There's lots of potential here. I'd like to modernize my home TV setup, and maybe even use HomePods as a replacement for a very aging analog amp and box speakers. However, the latency issue prevents all that unless you connect an AppleTV with HomePods, and I dislike the AppleTV interface, and it of course offers no OTA option (as of now, and almost certainly never will.) 

    Should Apple make a device like this with an HDMI interface for AppleTV; and perhaps an optical input, i'd like buy very quickly (along with more HomePods to pair to it.)

    Probability: low.
    Alex1N
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