While the new Apple HomePod 2 offers several upgrades over the original, there’s one new feature that could make Apple's latest offering a highly capable smart home speaker — even if that feature happens to be borrowed from Amazon Alexa.
One of my favorite Alexa skills — if not my favorite overall — is Alexa Guard. That's a home monitoring tool in which Alexa will notify you if the sound of a smoke alarm, glass breaking or other suspicious activity is heard through your Echo speaker.
Now, the new HomePod 2 has a similar ability for HomeKit users.
The $299 HomePod 2 can notify its owner when a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is detected in their home, as registered by the microphones inside the smart speaker. This way, if the user is away, they can be alerted to what’s going at home and take the appropriate actions.
That means even if you don’t have a smart smoke alarm or other automatic response service, you can know immediately when a siren is going off.
This isn’t a feature I hope users will need, but with an average of 358,000 house fires reported by the National Fire Protection Association per year, having safeguards in place is important. Having a working smoke alarm and addressing possible fire hazards in your home is non-negotiable, but some extra measures are also worthwhile (and I don’t just say that because I’m the daughter of a firefighter.)
That’s why I’ve set up an Echo Alexa speaker with Alexa Guard enabled in multiple rooms of my home and my parent’s home. Luckily, we haven’t had any situations that required Alexa Guard to intervene, but you truly never know.
The major difference between Alexa Guard and the HomePod 2’s alarm notification feature is the Alexa Guard Plus paid tier that offers professional home monitoring for $50 a year. With Guard Plus, Alexa can help you alert emergency services quickly when a situation is detected. Guard Plus users can also have their Alexa speakers listen for the sounds of footsteps, doors opening and babies crying. What’s more, Alexa Guard Plus lets your speaker sound a siren or make dog barking noises to scare off possible intruders.
The HomePod 2’s version of Alexa Guard might not have the option for advanced home monitoring, but if you already have video doorbells, indoor security cameras or a DIY security system, you can check up on your home if you get an alert about a smoke alarm.
Smartest Siri speaker yet?
The HomePod 2’s alarm notification feature is among the upgrades that make me believe this could be the smartest Siri speaker yet. HomePod speakers, even the adorable HomePod mini, haven’t quite had the whole-home intelligence to keep up with Amazon and Google ecosystems.
We can't know if the HomePod 2 ups the ante until we conduct a full review, but from first impressions, it looks like it could be the intuitive smart home device HomeKit users have been waiting for.