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Rumored screen-equipped HomePod appears in tvOS beta references

An artist's rendition of a HomePod with a display

Apple's rumored HomePod with a seven-inch display has allegedly made an unexpected appearance in the third tvOS 17.4 developer beta, with references pointing to an unreleased device with a screen.

Rumors have put forward the idea of a version of the HomePod with a display for a while, providing users with a home screen that effectively combines an iPad with the smart speaker. Now, there appears to be evidence that Apple's still working on the concept.

In code references seen by 9to5Mac, the tvOS 17.4 developer beta 3 issued by Apple on Tuesday refers to a new device by the name "Z314."

The unreleased item is capable of running tvOS, which both Apple TV hardware and HomePods effectively use. However, the HomePod version is designed to not include a user interface, due to a lack of screen.

As part of the beta, the HomePod firmware gains SwiftUI frameworks, as well as the hangtracerd tool for UI debugging in iOS apps. It seems unusual for Apple to include that functionality unless it was preparing a HomePod that could use it.

The Z314 is shown in code to be running an A15 Bionic chip, and with internal and production versions apparently being tested. It is thought that this is an indicator the speaker could be in a late stage of development.

The screen-enabled HomePod is thought to be similar in concept to others produced by rival smart speaker producers, and could offer consumers similar functionality. As well as giving visual control over functions, the display could potentially play media back to users, access to smart home functions via the Home app, or even handle FaceTime calls if it includes a camera.

Apple has also considered a HomePod with a small touchscreen, with a prototype from late 2023 claimed to be an actively-worked-on inbound product rather than a cast-off prototype.