The HomePod was arguably one of the more divisive products Apple has launched in recent years, next to the Mac Pros, of course. It was terribly late to the smart speaker game and launched with a small set of features compared to the likes of the Amazon Echo or Google Home (now Nest Home). Still, the audio quality was regarded as superb and the quality experience was exactly what Apple was known for. Some, however, have started to wonder if the HomePod was a one-off product but recent changes to the operating system it’s running may put those fears to rest.
The recent iOS 13.4 update that went to all devices and all “variants” of Apple’s mobile platform seemed pretty normal, if not boring, for the HomePod. It turns out that the changes were actually more substantial but also completely invisible. 9to5Mac discovered that the latest firmware for the smart speaker was actually based on tvOS rather than iOS directly.
To be clear, it’s still iOS since tvOS, watchOS, and especially iPadOS are technically just different incarnations of the same iOS. In terms of end-user functionality, there aren’t any visible changes. Overall, however, the switch could be part of Apple’s longer-term strategy for the HomePod.
For one, it aligns the speaker more closely to a device that is actually also more similar to it, the Apple TV, rather than behaving internally like a mobile device. 9to5Mac also theorizes that since iOS 14 will drop support for the HomePod’s A8 chip, tvOS will be its only way forward.
And then there’s the recent rumor of a HomePod mini which is most likely why Apple is making such big but silent changes to its smart speaker. Overall, it paints a picture of a device that is still receiving a lot of attention and not one that is about to be retired after just one try.