Apple unveiled 2022’s best smart speaker in 2017

Five years ago, Apple unveiled what I unequivocally consider the best smart speaker of 2022. It was late to the party, panned by tech press, and discontinued before its time. It was the original HomePod, and there’s still nothing else like it.

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Sure, there are five flavors of HomePod mini, but we wanted Apple to make a smaller HomePod to complement the big one, not replace it. The big HomePod has big sound that’s fit for large rooms or as your best speaker in your primarily listening place.

HomePod mini is remarkably compact by comparison, but the sonic difference is massive. HomePod mini is the starter smart speaker that makes filling a home with HomePods more affordable, but it’s leagues apart from the original HomePod in loudness and bass response.

We wanted a family of HomePods. Instead, we got stuck with this lightweight. That, my fellow citizens of the Apple ecosystem, is why the second-hand market of original HomePods is so compelling nearly two years after the OG HomePod was discontinued.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s much the OG HomePod could learn from its younger sibling. The HomePod triumphs at sound and can even be used as stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos for your home theater. HomePod mini has a few things going for it that exist simply because it was the first revision to the HomePod line.

The big HomePod has a removable power cord that you should probably never actually remove. Sort of like the Apple Studio Display. HomePod mini doesn’t quite have a removable cable, but it does end with a USB-C connector instead of the power prongs!

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HomePod mini connects to a removable USB-C power adapter, and the USB-C connector doubles as a data port. This allows you to connect a borked HomePod mini to a Mac or PC for restoring its software if an update ever goes haywire. The big HomePod simply shows you a red ring of death as if it were an original Xbox, and all support requires sending to Apple.

Apple also uses a snappier processor inside HomePod mini, switching from the aged A8 chip to the more recent S5 chip. This helps with how fast Siri will respond to voice commands, and it also likely contributes to the lower cost of HomePod mini. A smart speaker doesn’t need graphics oomph anyway.

And there’s Thread radio support embedded in the HomePod mini. Most recent Apple TV 4K boxes include Thread as well. Thread just wasn’t ready for the original HomePod.

Those are all things that are included in Apple’s revision for what a HomePod can be, but make no mistake, the original HomePod reigns as the best smart home speaker. The thing just has audio performance that will not fail to impress. It’s loud, it’s full, it’s deep, it’s doesn’t compromise.

My particular interest in the big HomePod now of all times started with a visit to out-of-town family over Thanksgiving. Years ago, I gifted them with a single HomePod that they still use regularly to this day. Meanwhile, I had abandoned the big HomePod as soon as Apple said the HomePod mini was the future of the lineup. Nearly two years later, I could not believe just how freaking great the original HomePod sounded.

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Apple doesn’t sell the original HomePod anymore, but you can find used or refurbished OG HomePods on eBay and Facebook Marketplace for between $200 and $300. Apple originally sold the HomePod for $350 before lowering the price to $300, and $250 was a common sales price near the end of its retail life. After tax and shipping, I ended up scoring a HomePod stereo pair for around $450 earlier this month.

I knew I would love the big HomePod all over again, but I did not anticipate all the ways the original was just better. You can whisper to invoke Siri from across the room, ambient sounds for sleep feel like you’re there, and the overall loudness can compete with serious levels of noise.

There are signs of hope for a new HomePod that isn’t named in relation to a larger version that’s no longer being sold. Several months ago, reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would release an additional HomePod in 2022 Q4 or 2023 Q1. Based on the current timeline, that might just mean we could see a beefier HomePod with modern revisions by spring. It’s a product I really hope exists, especially since the version announced in 2017 and released in 2018 won’t last forever.

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