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Apple needs more than a fancy HomePod with a display to take over the home

Pricing, smarts and integration should be Apple’s priorities

Another month, another rumor. This time, Ming-Chi Kuo claims Apple’s set to revamp its smart home strategy. Just as well, since onlookers for a while have wondered whether there is much of one.

The HomePod mini is nice, but the larger (and original) HomePod was abruptly removed from the market, and recently returned with the most minor of changes. The Apple TV gets an occasional update, but feels like a device Apple isn’t sure what to do with. And now we hear the next HomePod will have… a 7in display, like someone glued an iPad mini to a HomePod.

2023 HomePod

2023 HomePod. A lot like… 2018 HomePod.

It’s not enough. There are three key issues Apple must address to improve smart home adoption and move beyond being a niche player – and none of them involve a display.

1. Apple devices are too expensive

The reason many households sprinkle Amazon smart devices around like confetti is because they’re cheap. Apple doesn’t do cheap. That limits access points and mainstream adoption. And it risks people buying the odd Apple device for specific tasks, but peppering homes with cheaper rivals that become hubs and networks Apple kit ends up playing little part of.

2. Apple devices aren’t smart enough

Apple’s privacy stance is to be commended, but it has impacted on Siri’s evolution. Once the darling of smart assistants, it now lags behind its peers. The upshot is Apple smart kit isn’t as smart as rival devices, and therefore comes across as less useful – despite being more expensive.

3. Apple devices lack wider integration

Rumors Apple might combine Apple TV and HomePod are fine, but it’s the wider world that Apple needs to work with. Matter should help, making Apple devices compatible with more smart accessories. But Apple must also figure out services basics, like convincing Spotify to integrate with HomePods, rather than you having to use AirPlay streaming.

Perhaps it’s too late for Apple to be anything other than a minor player in smart homes. And for people ensconced in Apple’s ecosystem, that might not matter. But Apple likes controlling the full experience, and it can’t be thrilled at the prospect of creating devices to use within homes where smart networks are most likely to be based around rival products. Adding a screen to a HomePod won’t be enough, even if the result is as adorable as an iMac G4.

iMac G4

OK, we’ll forgive Apple everything if this is the template for the next HomePod.