There’s a very simple way Apple can make the HomePod a much more attractive product. I’m not an engineer or developer or anything, but I know a good idea when I hear it…or think it as the case maybe be.
When Apple released the HomePod gen two, there were a lot of people still complaining about the $300 price tag, and I guess I can understand. Even the Sonos one is less expensive. They go for $219 each these days. A lot of people compare the HomePod to Google and Amazon smart speakers, but I don’t think that’s an apt comparison because to my mind the HomePod is geared toward audio performance about smart functionality.
Here’s my idea: One of Apple’s most-loved and most-missed products is the Airport line of Wi-Fi routers. I had one of the last ones with the built-in Time Machine hard drive and I loved it. One of the best features of Apple products is the way they integrate with other Apple device and the AirPort was by far the most feature-rich Wi-Fi router I’ve ever used. The AirPort Time Capsule had all the features of the regular AirPOrt Extreme, but it also had a server-grade hard drive you could select as your Time Machine backup target. So much more peace of mind than relying on an off the shelf and drive that always seemed to end up fallen on the floor and dead.
Anyway, when Apple discontinued the AirPort line, people were generally confused. Yes, the AirPort Time Capsule was expensive at $299 for 2TB and $399 for 3tb (they were discontinued in 2018), but they were generally thought of as one of the better products Apple made and on of the best routers available on the market. Of course, they were best suited to use with Apple products, but what Apple product isn’t. There were a lot of less expensive options on the market and maybe Apple just felt like the quality of 3rd party products was good enough or better.
AirPlay started with the AirPort routers and it lives on today with AirPlay 2 and is actually one of the best ways to stream content out of your devices.
So here’s my idea, which both Google and Amazon in the mesh Wi-Fi router game and the smart speaker game why doesn’t Apple re-envision the HomePod as a HomePod AirPort hybrid? One larger HomePod could serve as a base station while other HomePods and HomePod minis could serve as mesh connections to the network.
Since wine of the best features of the HomePod line is easy whole home audio, imagine them serving double duty as mesh nodes. You could have HomePods set up as your TV Dolby Atmos speakers and include one Ethernet port and you can plug your AppleTV directly into the network, offering great speed and stability than a Wi-Fi-only connection. HomePod Minis in bedrooms or other hard-to-reach areas of your home would have no problem with speed drop off because they’re so far away from the base station.
Google did have speakers in a version of their mesh Wi-Fi products, but they took that feature away when they released the Nest Pro recently. I imagine the purpose was more for smart speaker functionality than for listening enjoyment, but imagine a Wi-Fi mesh node with the sound quality of either of the HomePods. That would be a value add that no one else on the market could match with the level of integration Apple could. And I’d be willing to pay more to get that kind of functionality. Imagine the two current HomePod models remain the same, but Apple introduces the HomePod Extreme with built-in mesh networking functionality. I’d pay $100 or more for that quality and convenience again. High quality whole home audio plus mesh wireless networking? Sign me up. Your move, Sonos.
What do you think? Would you line up to get a HomePod Extreme?