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Apple's next HomePod could be a desktop or TV sound bar

Proposed horizontal HomePod

While most HomePod rumors have claimed that Apple will add a screen to a future model, new research shows the company is thinking about making it a horizontal sound bar.

The HomePod mini hasn't changed since its launch in 2020. Apart from its cancellation and then rebirth, the original HomePod hasn't changed a great deal since it was announced in 2017.

So you'd think that it was Apple's second-least regarded product after the Apple Pencil. Behind the scenes, the company keeps plotting.

Previously, and repeatedly, we've heard of HomePods with large touch screens coming some day, although never quite today. There have also been patents showing a kind of display woven into the fabric surrounding the HomePod, and that fabric might be touch-sensitive.

But now Apple has been granted a patent concerning the design of what looks like just a horizontal HomePod. Instead of the cylinder of the original, and the tennis-ball like HomePod mini, this version has speakers spread wide away from a central Siri display, and tilted at an angle.

The newly-granted patent, called "Audio Speaker System," is extremely brief. Aside from short captions for its six drawings, the only text describes the patent as being for "The ornamental design for an audio speaker system, as shown and described."

Those six drawings, though, also hint at this being a HomePod that users could connect other sources too. Tantalizingly labelled only as "a rear view thereof," one figure shows a range of ports.

A simplified schematic of a device with a curved shape and dotted texture, possibly representing speakers and buttons.
One patent drawing shows a series of ports on the rear

At present, nothing whatsoever can be connected to a shipping HomePod except the power cable. There are no ports, no sockets, and so no potential for DJs to connect turntables to the HomePod.

It's debatable which would be more welcome in a future HomePod, the ability to connect other sources, or the wider, less tall speaker arrangement.

While there's no scale in the drawings, the size of what appears to be the Siri screen suggests that this would be at least more akin to the full-size HomePod than the HomePod mini.

But then the shape of the design is also at least reminiscent of the Beats Pill range of speakers. The drawings lack the control surface of the Pill, and the rear is only vaguely similar, but it is possible that the patent is for a potential Beats product.

It's not surprising that there should be similarities, though, because one of the two credited inventors on this patent is Robert Brunner. He was Apple's design chief from 1989 to 1996, and since then has worked with Pentagram and Ammunition Group, both of which have created headphones for Beats.

Side view of the proposed wide, horizontal HomePod
Side view of the proposed wide, horizontal HomePod

Note, though, the presence of a granted patent is no evidence that a product is coming from either Beats or Apple. It is evidence that Apple has at least spent some time designing such a model, though.