Apple Discontinues the HomePod

Posted on March 13, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Music + Videos, Smart Home with 48 Comments

Apple announced that it has discontinued the original HomePod and will focus its smart speaker efforts on the smaller and less expensive HomePod Mini.

“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,” an Apple statement notes. “We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.”

The original HomePod has been available for three years, but it was immediately in trouble and has never met expectations despite price cuts and numerous sales.

I have a few take-aways from this revelation.

Most obviously, not everything Apple touches turns to gold. As with the iPhone 12 Mini, there was an expectation, both inside and outside of the company, that just providing a high-end music option with an Apple logo on it to Apple’s customers would guarantee success. Nope. (And this isn’t even Apple’s first smart speaker failure: The firm introduced an iPod Hi-Fi in 2006 and killed that off just a year later.)

Second, it appears that no company can compete with Sonos in the premium smart speaker market. Apple isn’t the first smart assistant maker to fail in trying to do so: Google discontinued its Home Max smart speaker in December, and Samsung’s Galaxy Home, announced in August 2018, wasn’t even released.

Third, this is an important reminder to everyone here wringing their hands over the removal of Cortana from the Invoke smart speaker that Microsoft and Google aren’t the only Big Tech companies that unceremoniously cancel products that some customers love, regardless of how high-profile the launch was. HomePod was revealed in a “one last thing” celebration of music and technology three years ago, with Apple promising to “reinvent home music” with this “breakthrough home speaker.” But Apple quietly revealed that it had killed off the product late on a Friday night to avoid lots of press. In with a bang, out with a whimper.

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Comments (48)

48 responses to “Apple Discontinues the HomePod”

  1. prebengh

    It’s amazing how you are able to find every negative story about Apple and amplify the negativity.

    No, the original Homepod was to expensive, but I think almost every review of it regarding sound quality was very positive.

    And at least Apple promises updates for the Homepod and not just discard it like Microsoft does.

    And maybe the iPhone 12 Mini has not sold as expected, but according to various sites it has accounted for about 10% of the iPhone 12 sales, which would probably amount to 5-7 million units. How many other phone manufacturers would count that as a failure?

    • Paul Thurrott

      I never commented on the quality, I'm sure it was great. But it still failed, which is what happened and what I wrote about.
      • SvenJ

        In reply to paul-thurrott: "I'm sure it was great."? So you don't know? I can tell you about the only thing wrong with the Homepod was the price. You can say what you want about Siri, but she is certainly less privacy intrusive than Amazon and Google, and does what I expect, living in a speaker. She controls the speaker, and answers basic questions. In an Apple based home, iPhone, Mac, Apple TV, the Homepods fit in beautifully, as most Apple things will.
        As far as sound quality, they are really quite impressive. Maybe not $350 impressive, but I haven't compared them to $350 Sonos. Got my Homepods for $200 on sale. They are certainly way better than my $250 Echo.

        • b6gd

          In reply to SvenJ:

          The full size HomePod's do sound amazing. I am sure the 2 we have will last a long time.

        • jlv632

          In reply to SvenJ:

          I don't own a Homepod but can tell you the price is 99.9% wrong with everything produced by Apple

        • james.h.robinson

          In reply to SvenJ:

          I own two Homepods and here's what I see wrong with it:

          1. Must have an iPhone/iPad to do any configuration.
          2. Apple Music was the only built-in music source. If you want to use Spotify (the market leader), YouTube Music, Amazon Music, etc. , you're out of luck unless you want to stream from an iPhone/iPad (see issue #1).
          3. Only voice assistant is Siri. If you want to use Google Assistant or Alexa (the market leaders), too bad.

          And could we please stop comparing Homepod to whatever Cortana speakers existed? Microsoft went on a poorly-advised, ill-fated foray into consumer markets (thanks to previous management), Microsoft is clearly moving away from direct consumer products except for Surface and Xbox. Let's get past that. By contrast, Apple is primarily a consumer-products company. Therefore, I find it more bothersome for me when Apple fails at this.

          • cavalier_eternal

            In reply to james.h.robinson:

            Number two isn’t correct. While Apple Music is the default users can switch the default to whatever service they would like assuming said service supports the HomePod. No need to rely on streaming from another device.

  2. b6gd

    Wow too bad. We love our full size Home Pods, they sound fantastic and since we are an Apple Music Family sub it is a perfect fit. The mini is nice but not even close in sound.

    Oh well, I am sure they will work for years to come.

  3. winner

    Good riddance. Another walled, expensive piece of hardware.

    • Saarek

      In reply to Winner:

      Most reviewers agree , from an audio perspective, that the HomePod was excellent value. I've got two paired up in Stereo and they sound way better then the £199 each that I paid would suggest.

      Yes, it is a walled garden. But as it is a walled garden that I am happily and knowingly inside of that doesn't negatively effect me in anyway.

      • ghostrider

        In reply to Saarek:

        The garden is walled for one reason - to make it very difficult for you to leave. If you integrate products deeply enough Apple hope the consumer experience is enough that you'll buy more Apple kit. It's quite logical really, but really does limit your choice, and you end up paying a lot more for the products. Strangely, if your inside this garden, that's the only place you look, so you get accustomed to paying Apple's prices - it's a very clever way of manipulating the user into believing there's only one option and you'll pay whatever the cost is.

        • ivarh

          In reply to ghostrider:

          The only thing I can't take with me if I leave for Android is my homepods and my ios apps. To set up the homepods you need mac or an ios device. Apps are pretty much nailed down to whatever platform they are made from. If you move from Android to IOS all the apps you paid for or got for free is left behind. Music I have bought on the iTunes store has no DRM do it can come with me, Apple music is out for Android and Windows so that can come with me to. All my photos can be moved to my Windows or MAc PC and from there can go wherever I want to go.

          So apart from the Applications I really don't see what's so walled in

        • Saarek

          In reply to ghostrider:

          Sure, Apple does it because it helps lock people in. But it also has advantages for the end user and in the long term it’s far cheaper!

          My home is an Apple household. It’s an Apple

          household because I value good quality technology that all works together without any hassle and I also value my privacy.

          I’m aware that there is a plethora of competing devices out there that I could cobble together to achieve the same result. But it’d be a hassle linking so much stuff together from different manufacturers and I just can’t be bothered.

          I also find that value is skewed in people’s minds as they only tend to look at the initial outlay and ignore residual value which is heavily in Apples favour. I frequently find that my Apple equipment works out far cheaper than the competition over time once this is factored in.

          Example, I just sold my 4th generation Apple TV which I bought for £149 all the way back in 2015. I got £80 for it on Gumtree. Give me an example of any other tv streamer released back in 2015 that is still 100% supported by the manufacturer with frequent software updates. When you take away the £80 from the £149 I paid just £69 for that Apple TV, what an absolute bargain!

          To my mind why should I mess around with equipment from a string of manufactures that won’t work as well together and will likely be worthless within a year when I could just buy a nice Apple product that will just work with my other Apple devices and still be worth 40-50% of the price I paid 5 years later?

          Each to their own, but I think other people are crazy for not buying Apple stuff. lol

          • james.h.robinson

            In reply to Saarek:

            Makes sense. I bought a couple of Homepods when they first came out. But I've since retired the devices because there really isn't that much "value" (for me) in a device that requires an iPhone to do ANYTHING such as changing wifi networks.

            • Saarek

              In reply to james.h.robinson:

              I use mine all the time, primarily for music, but also to make phone calls, set timers, convert Fahrenheit to centigrade (I cook a lot of US BBQ, but still find it hard to get my head around Fahrenheit), make announcements to call the kids to dinner, change temp of the heating, etc.

              Naturally everyone derives value from different scenarios, but my Homepods are used daily.

          • b6gd

            In reply to Saarek:

            100% in the same boat. I have been in tech/IT since 1990. I too could cobble together a bunch of stuff and get it working great I am sure. The rest of my family would not like the complexity it would bring.

            I value privacy more and more. I do NOT use anything Google, except YouTube. Apple's ecosystem is second to none and their hardware is top notch as well. Sure it can have issue just like any other tech but their hardware/software just works well together and apparently from the sales many other people agree. I like the walled garden, it works great for me and everyone in my immediate and extended families.

            I think anyone using an Android device has lost their mind :)

  4. red.radar

    With airplay2 supported by third parties it was cheaper to roll your own if you wanted to stay in the ecosystem

    still Hard to beat Sonos. You have to be committed and offer the whole platform of audio devices not just a single product and try to convince people it’s the only solution for all your audio needs

  5. duncanator

    I think most of us just want a cheap, dumb Bluetooth speaker that we can stream from our phone. As long as it's slightly better than transistor radio quality, I'm good.

  6. Sir_Timbit

    Given the price, it should have had at least Bluetooth and possibly a line-in/HDMI.

  7. saint4eva

    In reply to nbplopes:

    Keep killing them, Apple. More of that.

  8. james.h.robinson

    I'm curious, is there really a large market for dedicated smart speakers vs. multi-function speakers such as soundbars?

    • Paul Thurrott

      I'm sure the unit sales are smaller, but there is a lucrative market for these kinds of speakers, yes.
  9. crunchyfrog

    Not sure how I feel about this news. I bought one about a year or so ago and initially thought the sound was pretty good. I had intended to keep it at my desk and use it for a speakerphone for conference calls and occasional use for podcasts and music.

    Over time I found it to be sometimes clumsy to use and it still chimes in when I'm on a Teams call thinking I'm talking to Siri and it just won't shut up so I have to hit the top button. The sound is decent but lacks range for voice calls and people often have a difficult time hearing me. I have also been using it as a speaker for my Mac Mini because Apple lets you do this but the sync between voices on video is often way off.

    So here it sits, still on my desk. Not sure what to do with it exactly. It's really not bad but it's not great either.

  10. b6gd

    In reply to Pungkuss:

    If you bought a Homepod knowing it did not have BlueTooth or inline that is on you. You had 30 days to return it, Apple has a fantastic return policy.

    I knew it going in. We are iOS device users, Mac users and Apple Music users. It fit in our world perfectly.

  11. gregsedwards

    The struggle to bridge the gap between speaker quality and smartification is real. Yes, you can buy premium speakers, and yes, you can buy a cheap smart speaker that doesn't sound great, and yes, you can use some method to make the crappy smart speaker talk to/control the premium speaker. But the result is often less than ideal.

    Case in point...I have a brand new soundbar that doesn't have a built-in assistant, but instead it can connect to your assistant of choice using a dedicated 3.5mm audio jack or Bluetooth. While this sounds great in theory, it's rather cumbersome to set up and is sometimes pretty hit-or-miss and slow, especially over Bluetooth. You also get into some weird edge cases wiring things up piecemeal like this, where you can end up inadvertently sending audio from the TV through the assistant's connection to the soundbar, because the TV sees the assistant speaker as a casting option. I have to imagine built-in support or even a first-party premium smart speaker would be a much better overall experience.

  12. cavalier_eternal

    “And this isn’t even Apple’s first smart speaker failure: The firm introduced an iPod Hi-Fi in 2006 and killed that off just a year later.”

    iPod Hi-Fi wasn’t a smart speaker so the HomePod does get the honorable title of “Apple’s first Smart Speaker Failure”

    This was a strange product in the sense that Apple never really seemed committed to it. Apple’s M.O. is to release something and then refined the crap out of it but with this they released it and then.... well that was about it. Some minor feature updates and that was about it. I guess the idea was quality sound via computational audio would carry it? Sad little orphan of a product for sure. I’m curious what they will do with the mini.

    I can’t see users getting super excited about it’s future after what happened with this. Also curious if smart speakers are even a product category with legs given that it’s really only the low end one’s that seem to sell. It seems people use them more for the digital assistant/home automation that’s music.

  13. IanYates82

    Google assistant is much better than siri, and has more market share here in australia than Alexa.

    I use a bunch of google home mini speakers, a Google nest cam kitchen thing, and also have a large JBL speaker than has Google home built in too. The ecosystem is nice and the speakers work well enough, with the JBL one being used outside to make a lot of noise when needed.

  14. behindmyscreen

    It sure would be nice if they made a home pod display....Yes, Siri isn't as smart as google but it is good enough at every day interactions and Apple doesn't use my information for profit.

  15. panjjj

    While it is true major players have left the premium smart speaker market Sonos is not the only player left standing. Granted, while most are small/niche competitors (e.g., Bose 300 and 500 models that do support Airplay2) Amazon is till in the market with the Echo Studio (including Dolby Atmos and support for higher quality audio options). It is possible, of course, that sales of the Studio are low and Amazon will take the same path and concentrate on the lower priced options. It is also possible they can perfect their configuration as a capable soundbar option (especially with the echo sub added) at a very competitive price point and expand their value and broaden their role as a cheaper, capable option to Sonos pricey offerings.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to panjjj:

      Sure, I didn't mean it was the only player. Just the market leader. But none of those other competitors are doing much damage in the premium smart speaker market either.

  16. angusmatheson

    Apple was horribly late to this party. They bought a bleeping speaker company in 2014, watched millions on echos sell - yet still took 4 years to put out a product that was 3x too expensive. We are all just used to listening to music on crappy free headphones or tinny audio from our phones - maybe spending $350 on a stereo made sense in 1975 not 2018 (2 years ago I pulled out my amplifier and surround sound stereo speakers because no one used it and it added complexity to my TV that caused problems). The echo taught us that they got it right with a small cheap speaker, and I believe staying in smart speakers is a good idea. I am a real believer in the future of natural language computing. But it really has to be everywhere. I think in the long run - a speaker that is built to play your music from Apple Music will be more appealing that one built to order toilet paper by voice from amazon so for those in Apple ecosystem a HomePod will make sense. I do think that Microsoft pulling back on Cortana is a mistake. While AR/VR (Microsoft’s big push) will be important in the future, I think we will spend more time in our houses taking to our computers than we will intentionally strapping on our VR/AR glasses and interacting with our computers that way. HomePod mini sounds fine and is $100. It is the right product. It just took Apple way too long to figure that out even after Amazon figured it out years before. And if you think the HomePod was a overpriced Paul points out the iPod HI-FI was a real disaster (which apple didn’t follow up on letting ihome sell millions of $50 iPod docks instead of apple $349 stereo.)

  17. Saarek

    "Third, this is an important reminder to everyone here wringing their hands over the removal of Cortana from the Invoke Smart Speaker"

    I think it's important to bear in mind that there is no reason to expect that my two HomePods will suffer the same fate as the products you are comparing it against. Yes, it is discontinued, but it will likely receive at least one more full software update and is almost guaranteed to continue to work with Apple Music and Siri for years to come.

    • Paul Thurrott

      If anything, we should be celebrating that Harman Kardon provided a way forward for the otherwise abandoned Invoke. It could have literally done nothing.
      • prebengh

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        You mean they turned it in/back to a Bluetooth speaker? That’s an amazing feat.

        • Paul Thurrott

          In reply to Prebengh:

          It's what I said it is: A way forward. They could have just left it to rot.

          • aways987

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            I think it is a smart move by them. Definitely will help keep customers loyal. I wish more companies did stuff like this, making devices somewhat useful when the "smart" features no longer work due to obsolescence.

        • Paul Thurrott

          Supporting customers is just common sense, both morally and legally. It doesn't have to be magic, just do the right thing.
          • nbplopes

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            By discontinuing the HomePod in what way is not doing the right thing? My HomePod is working well, it is not capped in any way whatsoever unlike Invoke. There is no indication by Apple that features will be removed if ever, again unlike Invoke. If and when that happens, we don’t know how it will be and if it will be relevant for users when the time comes.

            What we do know is that the HomePod will be no longer produced or sold by Apple. Instead people can buy a similar yet cheaper device, called HomePod Mini. We also don’t even know if the HomePod will be replaced by another device with the same audio fidelity or better, say an HomePod Max ... who knows.

            • Paul Thurrott

              The article is titled "Apple Discontinues the HomePod," not "Apple Discontinues the HomePod and Will Now Screw Over Existing Customers." And I never said they weren't doing the right thing by way of customers. Continuing to support it is the right thing. But the HomePod never made sense. You still need an iPhone to do *anything* with the HomePod going forward. So be sure to stick in that ecosystem so that you can continue listening to music or whatever you do with it.
      • Saarek

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I suppose so, but my point was that we can expect the HomePods to maintain their full functionality for the next 5 years+

        People moan about Apple being expensive, which they are, but by and large they are also a very safe bet for longevity. Advantage of owning the Software and Hardware.

        But yes, it is good that Harman Kardon did something for their customer.

        • james.h.robinson

          In reply to Saarek:

          Sure, you get longevity as long as you keep using an iPhone. You try to leave and you're screwed.

          • Saarek

            In reply to james.h.robinson:

            I see where you are coming from, and I do get it, genuinely, I do. But I've been a happy Mac user for around 20 years and an iPhone user since day 1.

            I'm quite technical and give IT support, Apple and non Apple, to my friends and family. So I am aware of what is on the other side of the fence and am comfortable using it. I'm typing this now on a Dell Windows 10 based notebook, I sometimes use it for work when my clients corporate network does not support my Mac.

            But the simple fact is that there is no all in one alternative company out there. No one else makes the phone, watch, tablet, tv streamer, smart speaker, headphones and computer and no one else has all the services that runs on all of those devices as a cohesive whole.

            If the unlikely day comes that I decide to switch I can always sell all of my Apple gear for 40-50% of what I paid for it and just make the switch. But I'm very happy where I am.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to Saarek:

      We will have plenty updates for the HomePod for years and years to come. As many as you may find for the HomePod Mini. This means a long time. What we may not get is a future, say AirPlay 3 ...

      Having said this, what Paul is arguing is that even than, if the HomePod was compliant with Bluetooth together with AirPlay 2, if Apple decided to go bzerk with some future AirPlay 3 ... your basic right to use would be better protected, you would have at least a standard that assured that at the basic level. There is a lot of trust involved here, a lot.

      I personally feel that Apple asks us customers to trust them over our property while they trust us 0 over theirs (Apple Store, lack of standards compliance in some product such as the HomePod). This is not a sign of healthy business relationship.

      I feel that the reason why HomePod was not that successful was because of lack of compliance with common audio standards. It such a central speaker to everyone in the home that requiring everyone to have iPhones to interact with it including guests its just too much, for such an expensive device for most people. Instead of Apple coming with and HomePod 2 supporting more stuff, including BT audio, they simply discontinued it. Preferred a standard compliance 0 model bu cheaper yet less powerful.

      I tend to agree with this.

      • Paul Thurrott

        "what Paul is arguing is that..." Everything after that is wrong. I'm not arguing that and don't care in the slightest.
  18. will

    There were/are a few issues with Apples approach to the HomePod:

    * Siri sucks - Just going to say it and it’s been many, many years but it just does

    * Only Apple Music - Spotify is king and Apple does not want to use them, but they reluctantly feel like they have to a little

    * Homekit is limited - Everything works with Alexa or Google with HomeKit being a 3rd place

    * It is expensive - When you can get a Sonos system that includes so much more, or just a few Echos for some simple background music it’s hard to run and get a HomePod

    Now about this Apple Mini, honestly not sure why they would keep it around after a couple more years. It’s the same issues with services and Siri. Plus an Echo device can sound just as good and works with more.

    I think I if Amazon just partnered with someone to make high end gear they would possibly stay on top. Yes they have Sonos devices, but there needs to be a better integration for the full Alexa experience.

    Oh and one more thing…what is the mini a mini to now? It’s parent is gone…

    • james.h.robinson

      In reply to will:

      Isn't Amazon already partnering with high-end gear, especially soundbar OEMs? Are there some specific types of gear you're talking about. I just want to understand and learn.

    • retcable

      In reply to will:

      I think Siri is fine for what I use it for, functions such as others have listed. I also have an Alexa device in my home, and it is equipped with dozens of "skills" that I have downloaded and added over the years, but frankly, I never use any of them. Like my HomePod, I only ask Alexa for the time, alarms, timers, turning lights on and off, the usual stuff that Siri is also perfectly capable of doing. I find these digital assistants to be useful for some things but overkill for the most part.

    • vladimir

      In reply to will:

      I think Siri and homekit are fine tbh. The other smart assistants are so limited and privacy invasive that I don't really see why to prefer them over Siri. I agree with everyting else and what i find amazing is that Apple could easily fix most of the problems. Instead, they prefer killing the homepod completely instead of opening it to third parties. Interesting (and a bit worrying) choice

      • JerryH

        In reply to Vladimir:

        I really don't think Siris is even close. It is really a distant third place.


        Hey Siri, play the Key of Awesome a Tribute to Ridiculous Voices from YouTube on Family Room TV

        See if your TV powers on, goes to the YouTube app, and plays the requested music video. That works fine with Google.


        Hey Siri, where is <insert name of spouse>?

        (For that one you need to be sharing location with your spouse via Google Maps, but it works fine with Google Assistant)

    • j5

      In reply to will:

      I have to disagree about Siri. I'll give you that it's not as advanced as Google and Alexa, in that order. But it doesn't suck. We got iPhones around 2017 and before that we had Samsungs and used Google assistant. Siri still answered our questions fine: weather, dates, misc, set reminders call contacts fine. Yes, it doesn't have the polish that Google or Alexa have but from the data on what questions the majority of people ask virtual assistants it's great and on par with the rest. It's just us tech geeks, not normies, that have that inside baseball knowledge.

      100% agree with the rest of your points ???.

  19. coolpatent

    Why do you need a "smart" speaker when you already have a "smart" phone that already has the smarts/assistant, your music library, and your favorite streaming service? I just need a speaker that has Bluetooth or Wi-Fi that I can stream to from my phone. Even in spite of that I was willing to try the Apple speaker BUT it has a non-removable power cord which means the money in my wallet is likewise non-removable. There's no reason why the power cord couldn't have been just like the Apple TV power cord.