Apple may be combining two of its devices and adding a new feature to make a streaming powerhouse. Rumor has it that the company may release an Apple TV 4K and HomePod hybrid with a built-in FaceTime camera.
Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman first brought up the idea last year and reiterates it in his latest Power On newsletter. Specifically, Gurman wrote "I absolutely do think a new HomePod is coming — specifically, a device that combines a HomePod, Apple TV and FaceTime camera. I don't think a big stand-alone HomePod is still in development, but perhaps a new HomePod mini is coming. In any case, the combination product will probably be at the center of Apple's approach, with HomePod minis surrounding that throughout the home."
Apple discontinued the original HomePod in March 2021, seemingly to focus on the more popular HomePod mini. If Gurman's report turns out to be true, the next iteration of the HomePod would be more of an all-in-one entertainment hub similar to the Google Nest Hub Max or Amazon Echo Show 10 (though, it sounds like it wouldn't have a screen like those products).
Not only does Apple bundle TV and Home into the same category on its website's navigation menu, but its Apple TV HomeKit integrations allow you to check live cameras, thermostats and locks around your home.
Analysis: Who's asking for an Apple TV/HomePod combo?
We like hybrid products — when they make sense. The Roku Streambar, for instance, cleverly puts a streaming device into a speaker. Building an Apple TV 4K into a smart speaker would also be great. The original HomePod featured excellent audio quality and Siri functionality, so an Apple TV 4K/speaker combo would likely make the entire streaming audiovisual experience a dream.
The question is, does Apple really need to put a FaceTime camera on it? In general, a smart speaker plays a different role in a home that a streaming speaker would. My Apple TV 4K has to sit near my television. I've put my HomePod mini alternately in the bedroom, kitchen and office, and use it to play music and control smart lights.
This potential Apple TV 4K/HomePod would be more restricted in location, since it would presumably have to be hooked up a TV. The addition of a FaceTime camera would also make placement more awkward, since you'd need to point it in a certain direction. And if, say, you connected it to a television in the living room, video calls would be public to everyone who's there or passing through.
My colleague Henry T. Casey, though, argued for webcam support in tvOS 16, as a way to make SharePlay easier to use. Apple's remote-streaming feature in FaceTime currently requires you to use an iPhone or iPad for your webcam if you want to simultaneously watch a show via your Apple TV. This would be simpler and require less juggling. Center Stage zooming could enable it to give you your close-up, as well.
Did anyone else ask for this? If Apple is reading, drop the camera and go for the two-in-one streaming speaker. That is a hybrid I would consider buying.