Apple HomePod 2 may have invisible touch controls

Apple HomePod
The Apple HomePod. (Image credit: Future)

Apple’s HomePod is perhaps one of the company’s most mediocre products. It’s desperate for some kind of big update, and a newly discovered plan from Apple gives us an idea of one direction the company could take the HomePod 2.

Patently Apple found a patent application, filed with the USPTO back in 2019 and published on March 5, titled “Fabric-Covered Electronic Device with Touch Sensor”, which looks suspiciously like a HomePod.

The most interesting part of the patent is that this speaker has hidden buttons within the device you can use to control it. Parts of the speaker light up to display specific buttons like play/pause and other information.

(Image credit: USPTO)

Apple suggests two possible methods for achieving this. It could use “conductive strands” woven within the fabric cover to detect presses (as illustrated by the image above), or it could have a conductive layer beneath the cover that will act as the input surface instead.

(Image credit: USPTO)

Another illustration shows how these buttons could be arranged, with the light-up areas helping to indicate what each press will do. However, Apple also suggests having the touchable areas installed all around the device, or at least over a wider area, with the smart speaker then enabling and disabling specific parts when required.

The lights wouldn’t only be there for the user’s benefit. Another possible innovation Apple details within the document is letting the speaker produce and detect infra-red light, which would then allow it to communicate with other devices.

But we shouldn’t get too excited. Patents don’t always become real-life products, and if they do, it can take a long time for an idea to become a reality. However, this doesn’t seem like too wild a concept to pull off, and this stylish and intelligent control method would be a notable improvement.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.