The new Home Pod is a significant improvement over the first one after five years of labor.
Apple entered the smart speaker market late when it unveiled the Home Pod in 2018. Yes, the business has never been concerned about late, preferring to concentrate on being the best. Unfortunately, in its initial try, it wasn’t the case. The Home Pod had a nice sound, but it lacked many of the essential features and voice assistant skills that companies like Amazon and Google provided. Home Pod and Home Pod mini have been improved throughout the course of the last five years by Apple, who have included capabilities like multi-room audio, multi-user support, and an intercom tool.
Apple stopped making the original model in 2021 in favor of the $99 Home Pod small. The larger version has since reappeared with a recognizable exterior but many interior alterations. Like the original, individuals who have already committed to Apple’s ecosystem will benefit most from the new Home Pod ($299). I can understand if you don’t want to continue if that’s not you. If so, just be aware that the firm has given the speaker a lot more tools than it did at its launch five years ago, including more capable Siri assistance and more smart home capabilities. In addition, the new Home Pod is $50 less expensive than the first model was when it first launched.
A familiar design updated on the inside
Apple probably let you down if you were expecting the new Home Pod to be a complete overhaul. However, a closer look reveals some distinct modifications. First, just like the Home Pod mini, the touch panel on the speaker has been somewhat recessed. The panel in the original form is flush with the top rim. Now that Siri is on, the panel’s lighting extends all the way to its edge. The power cord is now also removable. This implies that it should be simpler to obtain a replacement if you experience a problem with that crucial component (via Apple Care). If they’re seated side by side, you might be able to tell the 2023 model is 0.2 inches shorter at 6.6 inches (vs. 6.8 inches) if you have exceptional vision a side.
Apple, though, made a number of internal alterations. Both models contain a bottom row of tweeters and a woofer that faces upward. Apple lowered the number of tweeters for the second generation from seven to five and slightly upward-angled them from their prior virtually flawlessly side-firing position. Additionally, the business reduced the number of voice microphones from six to four. The S7 chip, which is significantly more contemporary and powers the Apple Watch series 7, replaced the iPhone 6’s A8 chip, which was arguably the most significant internal change.
Software and setup
The second-generation Home Pod is a better speaker even if there haven’t been any external improvements since Apple has been enhancing it and the Home Pod small over time. A few months after the first generation model was released, the business introduced Air Play 2 along with stereo pairing and multi-room audio. The intercom capability debuted in 2020 before the Home Pod mini, while multi-user support and audio handoffs were added in 2019. And starting in 2021, Home Pod will be able to play any TV audio through an Apple TV 4K over e ARC, spatial audio, and lossless Apple Music streaming. Apple has been gradually introducing several of the key features it is touting for the new Home Pod since 2018. And I’d say many of them contend, ought to have been there from the beginning.
Apple’s Home app has all the information you need to configure and operate the Home Pod. With this programmed, you must first add a new speaker by giving it a room or location in your house, just like you would with any other smart home device. The app enables you to configure your Siri interactions as well as Automations and Scenes.
You can choose not to use speech cues or the long-press method to activate the assistant on the Home Pod’s touch panel (both are enabled by default). When utilizing Siri, you can choose to have the speaker play a sound, light up, or do neither. If your iPhone is nearby, you can use the Home app to use Siri for Personal Requests, where the speaker can recognize your voice for things like texts, calls, and reminders. If you don’t want to use the intercom feature of the Home Pod, you can disable it using the software.
The Home Pod 2023 model has room calibration, much like the original. In order to set up the sound for the optimal performance, this detects reflections off of walls and other objects. When you play music for the first time, the Home Pod does this, but it isn’t ongoing surveillance. Instead, the system uses an accelerometer, just like it did on the previous version, to detect when it has been moved. If so, when music is played, the speaker will restart the room sensing procedure.
A smart home with Siri
The restricted capabilities of Siri were one of our main complaints when we reviewed the first Home Pod in 2018. Although the speaker had good audio quality, the voice assistant’s lack of polish gave the impression that it was still a work in progress. Over the past five years, Apple has made significant improvements to Siri, so many of the problems with the initial version have been resolved.
The Home Pod can recognize numerous users, just as Siri on Apple TV. When you ask, Personal Requests can give it access to your Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Find My, and more. Additionally, Home Pod may provide up to six members of your family with personalized responses from specific iPhone apps. Additionally, Siri can set up recurrent home automations without requiring you to pick up your phone and open the right app.
The new Home Pod performs well even with fewer microphones to pick up your voice. Even in a noisy setting, it can still recognize your voice with no problems. Additionally, Siri can now be used to control services like Pandora, Deezer, and many others, whereas Apple Music was previously the only one that could be voice-activated to play music.
Apple Home Pod (2nd gen) review
A smart home hub, Home Pod is also simple to integrate with Matter and Home Kit gadgets. Temperature and humidity sensing are built into the new model, and the Home app prominently displays this information. You may, of course, utilize that information to develop automations with other smart home appliances. Although I don’t have a smart thermostat that works with the Home Pod, I was able to effectively activate a smart plug when the Home Pod sensed a particular temperature in my living area.
Although it’s not yet available, Sound Recognition is likely the most important new function that Apple is introducing with the new Home Pod. It may send a notification to an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch after listening for smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. Furthermore, a video or audio stream will let you “check in” on the action. We’ll have to wait until later this spring to test Sound Recognition.
The first-generation Home Pod’s audio quality wasn’t a problem, and it’s still excellent here. Apple’s tuning decision won’t please everyone, just like with the original iteration. Voice is still being emphasized, thus vocals in music and dialogue in TV shows and movies take center stage. It’s okay sometimes, but with particular genres and content, it makes for a fairly mediocre experience.
Don’t get me wrong; when compared to other smart speakers, Home Pod generally has excellent sound quality. Since many of those don’t sound very well at all, Apple continues to provide a device with excellent audio capabilities and useful functions. While Sylvan Esso’s No Rules Sandy has enough low-end for its synth-heavy rhythms, RTJ4 has enough bass to support its brash hip-hop beats. Jazz and bluegrass, which are both intricate genres, shine on the Home Pod because to its superb clarity. Although the vocals are occasionally too forward and the bass occasionally too muted for full-band country (Zach Bryan’s 2022 live album) or metal (Under oath’s Vow querist), it still sets the bar for smart speaker quality. And just the Home Pod glows more brilliantly in stereo.
The programmed asks you if you want to use both Home Pods when you install the second one in the Home app. The programmed completes the configuration for you by allocating the proper channel to each speaker when you tell it which side the additional unit is on (left or right). Now, wherever there was a single Home Pod indicator before, there will now be two, continually reminding you of the stereo setup. For music, the two speaker option is fantastic. The two-speaker setup on Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart gives each track a lot more depth. The music already had a spatial quality, but using two Home Pods intensifies the effect and places you closer to the musicians as they record each song.
You must still deselect your TV speakers before choosing a Home Pod to utilize with the Apple TV. Just because you instructed the streaming device to deliver audio to one or more Home Pods doesn’t mean they are disabled. I can imagine utilizing a stereo pair for TV audio, but I can’t picture using just one device for the same thing. A live event, such as the Super Bowl, may be sent to a single speaker in a multi-room system, but having just one speaker play the only audio coming from your TV in the living room isn’t the best experience. While the Home Pod broadcasts sound in all directions, a single speaker makes it obvious that the sound is coming from a specific spot, which is far less obvious with a sound bar or a pair.
With a Home Pod and an Apple TV, speech is more prominent than vocals are. When watching stuff like live sports, it occasionally seems a little muted. Otherwise, Formula 1: Drive to Survive or Slow Horses has excellent audio quality, superb clarity, and wonderful bass. But in all honesty, a sound bar and subwoofer are a superior choice if you want to enhance the audio in your living room. The driver configuration of those speakers does a better job of evenly and thoroughly filling a room. Additionally, the majority of businesses let you alter or set presets for how much you want those speakers to emphasize dialogue, so you may tailor the situation to your preferences.
The less expensive Home Pod small is the ideal substitute for the second-generation Home Pod since it is more appropriate for users who have committed to Apple’s ecosystem. The $99 option will work well for you if all you’re looking for is some Siri help with your smart home and a speaker that’s suitable for casual listening and podcasts. Additionally, Apple recently unlocked the smaller speaker’s dormant temperature and humidity sensor, and Sound Recognition is on the way.
For the past five years, Apple has been working on a new Home Pod, continuously enhancing both the original model and the Home Pod tiny. Additionally, it undoubtedly helps that the firm has improved Siri as a friend. There are also more advanced smart home features than before. For the Home Pod’s sound profile, Apple hasn’t deviated from its focus on the spoken (or sung) word, but that’s okay. I’d anticipate that, like the first Home Pod, this is just the beginning for the second generation because it’s obvious that the firm is committed to growing the toolset for its smart speakers following their launch.