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Apple launches new HomePod smart speaker, after earlier version mysteriously disappeared

Apple launches new HomePod smart speaker, after earlier version mysteriously disappeared

Apple has launched a new version of the HomePod, after the previous generation mysteriously went missing.

The first HomePod was announced in June 2017 and released in February 2018. It received mixed reviews on launch, with wide praise for its sound but criticism for its high price and other features.

But in 2021, it was discontinued – which many hoped would be done in favour of a second generation, which never arrived.

That mysterious end to the HomePod line meant that Apple was only selling 2020’s HomePod Mini, and that there was no non-Mini version of the smart speaking for sale.

Now Apple has finally brought back the larger version of the HomePod, in a new release that it is calling the second-generation.

The speaker looks to be largely similar to the existing one, with a nearly identical design and audio setup. Like that first generation of HomePod, it integrates with the rest of the Apple ecosystem and includes room sensing technology so that it can adapt its sound to its surroundings.

But the second-generation HomePod includes new smart home and sound recognition features, including tools to check the temperature in a room and automated control of other devices.

The speaker setup appears to be slightly reduced from the original HomePod, with five tweeters rather than the previous seven. But it includes a new chip – the S7, which powered the Apple Watch Series 7 – and Apple suggested that the software will allow for a better listening experience.

It is also cheaper than the previous generation of HomePod. At launch, that speaker cost $349 – though it was often discounted – but the new version is priced at $299 in the US.

It is available to order now and will become available on 3 February, Apple said.

The announcement of the new HomePod comes just a day after Apple announced new versions of its M2 chips, which will now power three updated computers: the 14-inch and 16-inch versions of the MacBook Pro, and the Mac Mini.

Some reports have suggested that Apple may have been planning to launch all of those products during a live event that would also have seen the reveal of its long-rumoured mixed reality headset. That headset has been delayed, however, and so Apple is thought to have announced the remaining products through updates to its website instead.