It’s been more than two years since Apple’s pricey HomePod smart speaker first went on sale, and speculation has been brewing ever since on when we’ll see a follow up. Well, word has it that a new, smaller HomePod might arrive as early as next week, along with a pair of premium over-ear AirPods headphones.
According to MacRumors, the latest buzz is that a long-awaited HomePod Mini will finally break cover during Apple’s upcoming ”Hi, Speed” event next Tuesday, where we’re almost certain to see the iPhone 12 make its debut.
Besides a smaller HomePod, we may also see the rumored AirPods Studio, a high-end pair of Apple-designed headphones minus the Beats branding. Update (10/9/2020): Now it's sounding like the AirPods Studio won't arrive during Apple's iPhone event, although they may still be announced before the year is out.
Bolstering the rumors are reports that Apple has pulled all third-party speakers and headphones off the shelves of its physical and online stores, presumably to make way for its own wares. Taking a quick look at the headphones and speakers category at the online Apple Store, the only products listed are Apple’s various AirPods and several Beats headphones, although there are still some third-party AirPods accessories (such as sleeves for charging cases) available.
The leaker cited by MacRumors says that while a HomePod Mini will make its debut next week, a new, full-sized HomePod won’t be on the table.
What to expect from HomePod Mini and AirPods Studio
What could we expect from a HomePod Mini? Bloomberg reported as early as last fall that the smaller HomePod would come with just two tweeters, instead of seven on the original HomePod.
Beyond a smaller overall size, the HomePod Mini could (and should) come with a cheaper price tag than the HomePod’s $300 sticker price (down from $350 at launch). Apple being Apple, it’s easy to imagine that the anticipated HomePod Mini would still cost at least $99, which would pit the speaker against the likes of the recently revamped Amazon Echo and the just-launched Nest Audio, which we reviewed earlier this week.
But if Apple really wants to put a HomePod—and HomeKit—in every kitchen, dining room and bedroom, it’ll have to release a speaker so cheap, it falls into the “hey, why not?” category. At $50 each (and even less come Prime Day and Black Friday), the Echo Dot and Nest Mini smart speakers make for easy impulse purchases, although they also come saddled with the kind of iffy audio that’s anathema to Apple.
Meanwhile, anticipation has also been building for the rumored AirPods Studio, which (if they’re the real deal) would be Apple’s first foray into over-ear headphones beyond its Beats brand.
According to the latest leaks, the purported AirPods Studio would come with Apple’s refreshed H1 chip for faster Bluetooth connection times, lower latency, and “Hey Siri” functionality.
There may also be a couple different variants of the AirPods Studio, including a sleeker “sports” version, along with active noise cancellation, sensors that pause the music when you slip the headphones around your neck, swappable ear pads with magnetic fasteners, advanced equalizer controls, and a $350 price tag (in line with Sony’s recently released WH-1000XM4 cans).
We’ll find out if the HomePod Mini and AirPods Studio chatter is true in just a few days, with Apple’s iPhone event slated for Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT. Stay tuned.
Updated on October 9, 2020 with more details about the possible announcement date for the rumored AirPods Studio headphones.