Apple HomePod axed as original Siri speaker makes way for mini

Bid farewell to the original Apple HomePod, with the Siri-powered smart speaker being discontinued, the company has confirmed today. Launched in early 2018, the speaker met with praise for its high sound quality, but its $439 price tag at release meant it struggled to gain traction against rivals from Amazon and Google.

Indeed, the whole launch had been a struggle for the Cupertino firm. HomePod was announced at WWDC 2017 in June of that year, but its release date was pushed back several times. It wasn't until February 2018, in fact, that deliveries and in-store sales began.

Apple later attempted to address pricing criticisms by trimming the HomePod to $299, though it still proved a tough sell. Part of the challenge was that several features other smart speakers offered – such as stereo pairing and multi-room use – didn't arrive until later firmware updates. That combined with frustrations around Siri, and the assistant's capabilities in comparison to Alexa and the Google Assistant, and Apple's preference to keep rival music services at arm's length.

Now, Apple has confirmed to TechCrunch, it's time for the full-sized HomePod to wave goodbye. Existing stock of the speaker will be sold, through Apple online as well as in stores, but after that's gone there'll be no more. Instead, the company plans to focus on the HomePod mini which launched last year.

"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 said in a statement. "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."

At a third of the price of the original HomePod, the HomePod mini unsurprisingly doesn't sound as impressive. However it's far more in line with what Amazon and Google charge for their smart speakers. That opens the door to a more cost-effective way to put Siri in more locations around the home, something the price tag of the full-sized HomePod made generally unfeasible.

It's not the only product that Apple has pulled the curtain closed on in recent weeks. The iMac Pro – the higher-spec version of Apple's all-in one computer – was discontinued earlier this month, with the company confirming that it would only be available "while supplies last" online. Custom configurations were first to go, leaving just the standard $4,999 model still available to ship.