Back in March, the Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo revealed that Apple was working on a HomePod with a 7in screen to enter the smart screen space. Before that, it was reported that Apple wanted to let anyone turn their iPads into smart screens, so it was just a question of which came first.
But out of nowhere a new and considerably less practical challenger has entered the race. Leaker and exotic tech collector Kosutami has shared pictures of a prototype HomePod with a teeny-tiny LCD screen in the top… seen here running whatever the opposite of a killer app is.
9to5Mac is adamant that this isn’t a hoax. Conferring with its insider sources, the site confirms that this is an “advanced-stage prototype” codenamed B720. The app pictured is, as you might have guessed from the name, purely designed for engineers to test the display.
HomePods run audioOS — a fork of tvOS found on Apple TV devices. And the site has found evidence of Apple reworking some tvOS apps to run in different aspect ratios, which is more evidence that this is something being actively developed rather than a curiosity. Apple Podcasts and Apple Music are the two that have currently been reworked, and both feel like likely candidates for the HomePod.
While it’s too early for the interface to be confirmed, the site reckons the display will showcase a “blurred animation based on the colors of the album art when a song or podcast is playing” which doesn’t sound like a huge advance on what you have now. More practically, there are “hints that it will show some important notifications, potentially to answer phone calls and reply to messages” too.
Frankly, I’m not sure how much use this screen would be, given the whole point of smart speakers is that you don’t have to look at them. Smart screens are still kind of looking for a use, but at least they put their display on the side to be viewed from a distance, whereas this would require you to loom over it and squint to see what it’s trying to tell you.
Nonetheless, it’s an upgrade of sorts — just nowhere near as practical as the bigger screened HomePods Apple reportedly also has up its figurative sleeves. No doubt there’s some crossover in the software development, though, so perhaps we’ll see a lot more smart home integration in 2024.