Apple executives say that "growing interest" in a larger HomePod caused them to revisit the decision to discontinue the original model.
When Apple discontinued its first HomePod in March 2021, the company said that it would be focusing instead on the lower-cost HomePod mini. Then following rumors of its return, a new and slightly revised HomePod was announced in January 2023, with availability from February 3, 2023.
"We really did hear from our customers this growing interest for more powerful and richer acoustics of a larger speaker," an Apple spokesperson has told TechCrunch.
The spokesperson confirmed that Apple had not originally intended to revisit the HomePod. But having made the decision to bring it back, the company says it learned from what it felt it had achieved with the product.
"We deeply studied the learnings from the first HomePod and HomePod mini," said Matthew Costello, Apple's vice president, Hardware Engineering and Operations, "and we introduced the new HomePod when it was able to achieve our broad range of experience goals."
Costello did not specify what those goals were, but it did not involve changing the fundamental design of the HomePod. "Our teams really, really love this direction, in terms of the shape and the form," he said. "And we were able to create a wonderful system within that structure."
Nonetheless, the new HomePod is sufficiently different that Apple chose to not allow it to be used in a stereo pair with the original model.
"When creating a stereo pair, it's important that the audio characteristics match for an optimal, balanced experience," explained Costello. "The new HomePod delivers immersive, room-filling sound users love — with even more detail, clarity and layers than the original HomePod — so we wanted the acoustical imaging to be as pure and consistent as possible from generation to generation."
"The principle of having audio characteristics match in a stereo pair applies to HomePod mini, the original HomePod and the new HomePod," he continued.
Initial reviews of the new HomePod tend to praise its audio quality, while noting that there isn't a great difference from the original.