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Apple explains HomePod 2’s strange Wi-Fi downgrade

Apple’s surprise announcement of the HomePod (2nd Gen) last month saw a few minor upgrades and one surprising downgrade.

A quick look at the tech specs for the newer iteration of Apple’s smart speaker showed the ancient Wi-Fi 4 technology on board, rather than the Wi-Fi 5 modem sitting within the original HomePod.

Considering we’re currently seeing devices with future-proofed Wi-Fi 7 hit the market, it’s a little strange to see Apple regress from a technological standpoint. In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple’s VP of hardware engineering and operations said it won’t impact the wireless performance of the speaker.

“HomePod features Wi-Fi 4 connectivity that allows us to target exactly what works best in the entire system,” Matthew Costello says, “making sure Siri requests are responsive, and ensuring a consistent experience for all you are listening to, controlling your smart home accessories and more — all while being energy efficient.”

Costello didn’t expand on those comments, but it appears that Wi-Fi 4 is just fine for what Apple needs to achieve with the HomePod series. Elsewhere, Costello commented on the decision not to offer backward compatibility with stereo pairing of HomePod generations, which has irked some people.

“When creating a stereo pair, it’s important that the audio characteristics match for an optimal, balanced experience,” he said. “The new HomePod delivers immersive, room-filling sound users love — with even more detail, clarity and layers than the original HomePod — so we wanted the acoustical imaging to be as pure and consistent as possible from generation to generation. The principle of having audio characteristics match in a stereo pair applies to HomePod mini, the original HomePod and the new HomePod.”

When asked why Apple decided to reintroduce the full-size HomePod after surprisingly discontinuing the speaker just as it was coming into its own, Costello said it’s all down to the success of the HomePod mini.

“We deeply studied the learnings from the first HomePod and HomePod mini and we introduced the new HomePod when it was able to achieve our broad range of experience goals.”

Fair enough. The HomePod 2 goes on sale on Friday.

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