HomePod Launched Five Years Ago Today, Faced Several Setbacks Along the Way

Apple's original HomePod became available to customers five years ago today. Over the years, the smart speaker faced several setbacks, including a delayed launch, poor reviews of Siri, reports of lackluster sales, and even a temporary discontinuation.

HomePod 2017 Image
Apple first announced the HomePod at WWDC 2017 and planned to release the speaker in December of that year. However, the HomePod was ultimately delayed and ended up launching February 9, 2018, but only in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Availability expanded to additional countries later that year, but the rollout was slow.

"HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple," said Apple's former marketing chief Phil Schiller, in a February 2018 press release about the launch. "It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use."

The original HomePod received rave reviews for its sound quality, but opinions about Siri were far less favorable, as Apple's voice assistant had several shortcomings at the time. On the HomePod, Siri could not set multiple timers, lacked multi-user support, could not directly make and receive phone calls, could not answer as many questions as Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant, and had other limitations. Apple added many of these features to the HomePod with software updates over the following months and years.

While the HomePod's feature set gradually improved, multiple reports indicated that the speaker had lackluster sales and limited market share. Apple gave the HomePod a very rare price cut from $349 to $299 in April 2019 in an attempt to spur sales, but the device never became a runaway success and Apple ultimately discontinued it in March 2021 to focus its attention on the smaller HomePod mini that had launched four months earlier.

"HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99," Apple explained at the time. "We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini."

After the HomePod was discontinued, a niche market emerged for the speaker that resulted in the device fetching high resale prices on eBay.

Last month, Apple reversed course by introducing the second-generation HomePod with a virtually identical design as the original. The new HomePod has a larger backlit touch surface, five tweeters instead of seven, four microphones instead of six, an S7 chip instead of an A8 chip, a U1 chip for handing off music from an iPhone, and a new temperature and humidity sensor. The speaker launched last week and remains priced at $299.

Apple said it had "heard more interest than ever for the acoustics of a richer larger speaker," leading to the HomePod's return. Many reviewers said the new HomePod sounds largely the same as the original, and Siri has improved over the years, but it remains to be seen if the speaker will be any more successful than its predecessor.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

Popular Stories

iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

iPhone 16 Series Is Just Two Months Away: Everything We Know

Monday July 15, 2024 4:44 am PDT by
Apple typically releases its new iPhone series around mid-September, which means we are about two months out from the launch of the iPhone 16. Like the iPhone 15 series, this year's lineup is expected to stick with four models – iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max – although there are plenty of design differences and new features to take into account. To bring ...
macbook pro january

Best Buy's Black Friday in July Sale Takes Up to $700 Off M3 MacBook Pro for Members

Monday July 15, 2024 11:05 am PDT by
Best Buy's "Black Friday in July" sale is in full swing today, and in addition to a few iPad Air discounts we shared earlier, there are also some steep markdowns on the M3 MacBook Pro. You will need a My Best Buy Plus or Total membership in order to get some of these deals. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small...
ipaos 18 image playground

Apple Releases First iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 Public Betas

Monday July 15, 2024 1:16 pm PDT by
Apple today provided the first betas of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 to public beta testers, bringing the new software to the general public for the first time since the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple has seeded three developer betas so far, and the first public beta includes the same content that's in the third developer beta. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...
maxresdefault

Apple's AirPods Pro 2 vs. Samsung's Galaxy Buds3 Pro

Saturday July 13, 2024 8:00 am PDT by
Samsung this week introduced its latest earbuds, the Galaxy Buds3 Pro, which look quite a bit like Apple's AirPods Pro 2. Given the similarities, we thought we'd compare Samsung's new earbuds to the AirPods Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, you could potentially mistake Samsung's Galaxy Buds3 Pro for the AirPods Pro. The Buds3 Pro have the same...
Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

10 Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Monday July 8, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models simultaneously, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different – already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
Generic iOS 18 Feature Real Mock

Apple Seeds Revised Third Betas of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 to Developers

Monday July 15, 2024 10:09 am PDT by
Apple today seeded updated third betas iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 to developers for testing purposes, with the software coming a week after Apple initially released the third betas. Registered developers are able to opt into the betas by opening up the Settings app, going to the Software Update section, tapping on the "Beta Updates" option, and toggling on the ‌iOS 18/iPadOS 18‌ Developer Beta ...

Top Rated Comments

gnipgnop Avatar
19 months ago

$600 to get true stereo is a joke. You’d be better off getting a decent pair of bookcase speakers.
A) You’re going to need to buy more than just the bookshelf speakers if you want to stream music.

B) If you think $600 is expensive for audio equipment then you probably haven’t priced audio equipment before.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FSMBP Avatar
19 months ago
I'd get one if I could just plugin HDMI / optical audio into it... Seems too expensive to rely on AirPlay.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pnoyblazed Avatar
19 months ago
Love my original Homepods (all 8 of them)
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
theluggage Avatar
19 months ago

I'd get one if I could just plugin HDMI / optical audio into it... Seems too expensive to rely on AirPlay.
The lack of any sort of audio in rules it out for me.

I think the main failure though is that the market saw it as a "home assistant" which led to silly apples-and-oranges comparisons with advertising-subsidised products from Amagoogle which were "trending" at the time. The real competition should have been "audiophile" bluetooth speakers from Naim, B&W, B&O etc. some of which actually made the Homepod look like a bargain...

It's interesting that the relaunch has come just when the home assistant market is reputedly tanking (although I take that with a slight pinch of salt, since Googlezon obviously sold them as loss-leaders).
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
citysnaps Avatar
19 months ago

$600 to get true stereo is a joke. You’d be better off getting a decent pair of bookcase speakers.
Can a decent pair of bookcase speakers understand my "Hey Siri, play Miles Davis" from across the room, and then start playing all of Miles Davis' music, without involving any other device (computer, phone/tablet, amplifier, etc), anywhere in my house?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rooster ? Avatar
19 months ago

A) You’re going to need to buy more than just the bookshelf speakers if you want to stream music.

B) If you think $600 is expensive for audio equipment then you probably haven’t priced audio equipment before.
…and C) You’re not going to get Dolby Atmos.

The lack of any sort of audio in rules it out for me.

I think the main failure though is that the market saw it as a "home assistant" which led to silly apples-and-oranges comparisons with advertising-subsidised products from Amagoogle which were "trending" at the time. The real competition should have been "audiophile" bluetooth speakers from Naim, B&W, B&O etc. some of which actually made the Homepod look like a bargain...

It's interesting that the relaunch has come just when the home assistant market is reputedly tanking (although I take that with a slight pinch of salt, since Googlezon obviously sold them as loss-leaders).
I’ve got B&O speakers with audio in, and never use it. I’ve Dolby atmos via eARC pass through with my OG HomePod pair and it sounds amazing with all content streamed via my ATV 4K, including PS5 and anything else connected to the tv. I personally don’t want wired connections. Just like others have said the ability to have more than one pair would be fantastic.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)