Around this time next year, you may have to make a decision whether or not to buy a new type of HomePod that comes with a display. According to notable Apple analyst Ming-Chu Kuo, the tech giant might unveil the next-gen HomePod with a 7-inch panel within the first half of 2024. The display, which will be manufactured by Chinese supplier Tianma, "could enable tighter integration with Apple's other hardware products." That signifies a "significant shift in the company's smart home strategy," he said.
Kuo's prediction echoes earlier reports by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman that the company is developing a kitchen accessory that combines an iPad with a speaker. Just this January, Gurman reiterated that Apple is working on a slate of smart home devices in a bid to compete with Amazon's and Google's offerings. One of the products it's reportedly developing is a low-end iPad that can control various IoT devices, such as thermostats and lights, and can be used for video chats. It remains to be seen whether that's also the display that would come integrated with the HomePod.
By launching a speaker with a smart display, Apple will finally be able to offer a direct competitor to Google's Nest Hub and Amazon's Echo Show models. Apple is lagging behind its peers when it comes to smart home devices — its smart speaker, for instance, came years later than the Echo. Bloomberg said way back in 2017 that it's because Apple's executives had a hard time figuring out where it would fit into its product ecosystem.
Since Apple is clearly still in the midst of catching up with its competitors in the space, users can either choose between the HomePod mini and the newer 2nd-gen HomePod that was launched in January for now. The new model has a touch panel at the top, but it has limited capabilities that include adjusting the volume, skipping tracks and summoning Siri.