It costs about double what its rivals do, it isn't very smart, and it leaves white marks on wooden tables. Yet the HomePod still managed to have a solid launch, earning a ton of media coverage, rave reviews for its sound quality and (based on anecdotal evidence) seemingly decent sales. Like most Apple products, it got people talking, and everyone wants to know what the company has up its sleeve as a follow-up.
In this article we dissect the clues and rumours relating to the HomePod 2: its likely release date, pricing and new features.
The HomePod was announced back in June 2017 at WWDC, but wasn't launched until February 2018. You can therefore expect a flurry of expectation near the end of 2018, although as ever we have to point out that most Apple products don't follow a predictable yearly upgrade cycle. (The iPhone does; most others don't.)
Still, we might hear about a new HomePod a little earlier than that.
Economic Daily News, a Taiwanese site, has published a report making a number of predictions about Apple's 2018 product roadmap. Along with new iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, the website (citing industry sources) expects a new HomePod in the second half of 2018.
Apple has three main release windows, but only one is in the second half of the year: September, when it refreshes its iPhones. The HomePod 2 may be announced at the same event.
An earlier launch would be possible, however, if the announcement is made at WWDC 2018 in June and then the product appears a few weeks later - thereby just squeezing into the second half of the year.
It's pretty much universally acknowledged that the HomePod is an excellent speaker. But its credentials as a smart speaker got a more mixed reception, with Siri's capabilities compared unfavourably to the Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants in rival products.
For this reason the main upgrade we are expecting - and hoping for - in the new HomePod is a more ambitious array of voice commands and features. (Here are the things you can ask Siri on the HomePod at the moment.)
Many reviewers have also pointed out how dangerous it is that you can't set up multiple accounts with separate recognised voices. Logically you'd want the HomePod to hear and recognise your child's voice and allow limited commands (such as playing songs), then also hear and recognise familiar adult voices and allow more advanced functions such as reading out and sending text messages. But the HomePod isn't that smart.
Finally, it's a tremendous limitation that HomePod's Siri controls are not compatible with a wider range of music streaming services. Full Spotify support, for instance, is a must.
Another potential feature for a next-generation HomePod could be facial recognition.
The company that is building Apple's HomePod smart speakers believes that future models could offer this.
Inventec Appliances president David Ho said: "Engineers are designing smart speakers that will not only come with voice recognition but also incorporate features such as facial and image recognition. Such AI-related features are set to make people's lives more convenient and to make the product easier to use."
A version of the HomePod firmware released earlier in 2017 referenced facial recognition features, but the feature didn't arrive in the first-generation model.
Yuanta Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu said Apple could roll out HomePods with 3D-sensing cameras in 2019.
Those, then, are the new features we'd like to see in the HomePod 2. If the Taiwanese report is right, however, and we'll be getting a drastically cheaper model (see the price section, next), it would be unrealistic to expect a raft of new features. (It would really add insult to injury for early adopters if a new model appeared less than a year later that was half the price and did all the things the first one couldn't.)
Indeed, Apple could be expected to cut back on the feature set for a budget-focused version.
The first-gen HomePod costs £319/$349. (You can buy it direct from Apple.)
Ordinarily we would expect version 2 of an Apple product to cost roughly the same, the natural lowering of production and materials costs over time being offset by the increased costs of the upgraded components. But the rumour mill would have it otherwise, and predicts that we'll get a significantly cheaper HomePod in 2018.
The Taiwanese report mentioned and linked above forecasts a price tag of between $150 and $200, roughly half the price of the current model. On that basis UK pricing of around £160 seems plausible.