Apple might have discontinued the original, full-size HomePod smart speaker, but the company is continuing to add new functionality to it. The latest one relies on you also buying the new, second-generation Apple TV 4K, however. If you own both products, there’s now built-in support for HDMI ARC and eARC, which lets the HomePod play audio from other devices plugged into your TV — not just an Apple TV streaming box. Gaming consoles should work; same goes for Blu-ray players or even another streaming gadget.
The feature can be enabled in the “video and audio” area of the Apple TV settings menu. There you’ll see a field labeled “Audio Return Channel (beta),” where you can tell the Apple TV to route all television audio through HomePod speakers.
I haven’t tested this yet, so I can’t speak to any latency issues that could negate its appeal for gaming, but it’s nice to see the HomePod gaining new tricks even after Apple has officially brought an end to sales of the product. (You can still find them at retailers including Apple itself.)
This continued evolution of home theater features is also a hint that Apple could have more speakers in the pipeline. Bloomberg reported last month that the company is in the early stages of development on a product that combines an Apple TV, speaker, and camera. For now, the $99 HomePod Mini stands as the lone smart speaker that Apple is actively marketing. Unfortunately, that device does not support the new audio return channel feature described above.