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Forget Google Nest Hub 2 — Apple could be working on its own smart display

Apple smart display concept
(Image credit: Parker Ortolani)

Apple could have a smart display on the way after a Bloomberg report claimed that the company is working on new speakers featuring “screens and cameras.”

So Apple could be following in the footsteps of Amazon and Google, and offering some sort of HomePod device that has a built-in screen. A screen that could be used for FaceTime calls, or integration with other camera-based smart home devices.

MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has corroborated this news, with the discovery of FaceTime and iMessage frameworks inside the tvOS 14.5 beta code. Plus a new AVFCapture framework related to image capturing.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that FaceTime and iMessage are coming to Apple TV, since HomePod speakers run on the same base code as the Apple TV. So by adding those frameworks to tvOS, you’re making them available on two different device families.

Of course, the HomePod can already relay audio from FaceTime, but this is different. According to MacRumors, the new code is distinct from anything related to tvOS’s existing FaceTime features. In other words, this is not just an update to a feature that’s been available since day one.

But beyond making video calls to other Apple users, there’s a lot to be gained from an Apple smart display. Apple’s HomeKit smart home system lacks any sort of smart display right now, meaning HomeKit users lack some of the abilities available with Alexa and Google Assistant. 

The smart display can function as a dedicated hub for your smart home, offering extra visual information you can’t get from an ordinary speaker. It also offers you a dedicated screen to view live video feeds from your smart cameras and other tablet-like features; think video streaming or online recipes.

Those features are available with the Amazon Echo Show and the Google Nest Hub. So really FaceTime is just the bare minimum of what an Apple smart display has to offer.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said there are no plans for an “imminent launch” for the Apple smart display. So don’t expect one to arrive any time soon, if it ever arrives at all. 

As for the tvOS code, Apple is likely just laying the groundwork for a future launch. Assuming we won’t be seeing FaceTime come to Apple TV boxes anytime soon.

As with anything rumored to be coming out of Apple, we’ve got to be patient. It makes perfect sense for the company to release its own smart display, ideally sooner rather than later. But we won’t know for sure until it actually tells us what’s happening. Or unless there’s a serious leak at Cupertino.