Apple pulls the plug on the HomePod – Ars Technica3 min read

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/03/apple-pulls-the-plug-on-the-homepod/

Apple has discontinued production of the pricey HomePod smart speaker that it began shipping in 2018.

The speaker will still be sold until supplies run out, but the space gray version is already gone from Apple’s online store. Only the white version remains, though you might be able to find the space gray one at a third-party retailer.

Regardless of the production change, HomePod owners will continue to get software updates and support from Apple for an unspecified amount of time.

Apple says it intends to put its focus on the more successful HomePod mini. The HomePod mini costs $99—a third the price of the HomePod—and offers notably lower sound quality.

The HomePod mini does not have all the same features of the original HomePod, either. For example, Apple a few months ago launched “home theater” mode for the HomePod, with optimizations and features meant to make it work as part of a home theater surround-sound setup with an Apple TV 4K streaming box. That is not available on the HomePod mini.

Apple provided the following statement to TechCrunch, confirming that the HomePod has been discontinued:

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.

The HomePod was the result of considerable investment by Apple; a large team worked for years to build the most high-tech speaker they could, employing machine learning and other techniques to optimize sound quality based on the space the speaker was placed in and how many other speakers were synced with it in that space. Sonos and other companies have made similar efforts, but reviews of the HomePod suggested it was at least as good if not better than offerings from Sonos.

But it hasn’t been a good run for ultra-high-end smart speakers; Google also discontinued the competing Google Home Max speaker, for instance. As has been seen in the world of streaming music services and headphones, the evidence is strong that the vast majority of consumers simply do not prioritize superior audio quality, preferring instead to buy cheaper, lower-quality speakers to benefit from their convenience and flexibility.

This is the second product line Apple has pulled the plug on recently. Just a week ago, it came to light that the iMac Pro was ending production, with Apple pointing to the standard 27-inch iMac as an alternative. The iMac Pro hadn’t been substantially updated almost since its introduction, and the regular iMac’s top configurations caught up to it.

Apple is expected to introduce a new version of the standard 27-inch iMac sometime in the next year. Given the relative success of the HomePod mini, more home audio products may be on the way, too.

Listing image by Jeff Dunn

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