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Apple discontinues HomePod mere months after launching 'Home Theater'

15 Mar 2021 | Rasmus Larsen |

Apple has discontinued the original HomePod mere months after launching 'Home Theater' with Dolby Atmos, wireless game sound, and permanent Apple TV pairing. Is this the end? Or the start of the next chapter?

Is this the end?

The original HomePod, launched about 3 years ago in February 2018, has been discontinued. It was launched as a music speaker with only two types of input; Siri voice controlled internet streaming and AirPlay 2 network streaming. - "HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care," Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch. Since launch in 2018, the company has put in a lot of effort to make HomePod work better with the Apple TV box. It culminated in November 2020 with 'Home Theater' mode and other HomePod features in tvOS 14.2. The HomePod mini will still be available but it does not support these TV-related features and it is not a very capable TV speaker either.

Home theater with Apple TV 4K

Or the start of the next chapter?

Keeping HomePod mini around will give Apple a cheap speaker to sell, but it will not change the fundamental challenge with HomePod, which is the fact that it is still not available in most of the world after 3 years in existence. Why? Lack of Siri localization. So, is this the end? Has Apple put in years of work to make WiFi-based TV audio work seamlessly? To enable Dolby Atmos over a wireless connection? To make wireless game audio work without latency (certainly not an easy task)? Only to abandon everything mere months after introducing it. It would represent a breach of trust. We see 2 scenarios:
  1. Apple launched 'Home Theater' and users shrugged. That was that. Going forward, it may license the technology to its partners for use in AirPlay 2-enabled speakers.
  2. HomePod was designed first and foremost as a music speaker – not as TV speakers. And the 'Home Theater' features were always intended for another product. Perhaps a soundbar from Apple?
It is worth noting that Apple is still tweaking and improving 'Home Theater' integration with Apple TV 4K in the tvOS 14.5 betas by adjustments wireless audio routing from Apple TV to HomePod and by making changes to the audio settings menu (for Dolby Atmos). Either way, we will have to wait for the answers. There are indications that the company's next event will be held on March 23 so perhaps we will have a better understanding of the situation next week.

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