Apple is reportedly developing a new TV accessory that combines elements of its Apple TV with a HomePod speaker and camera for video calls, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Alongside it, Apple is also said to be working on a smart speaker with a display, similar to Amazon’s Echo Show or Google’s Nest Hub. Development of both devices is said to be in its early stages, with plans subject to change.
The unannounced TV accessory would have the hardware to fulfill a variety of roles. As a TV accessory it could offer access to games and the streaming video services supported by Apple TV today; while its built-in speaker would likely be an upgrade over those found in most TV sets, similar to Roku’s soundbars. It would also support HomePod features like music playback and Siri voice assistant controls, much like the Sonos Beam offers with Alexa and Google Assistant. Finally, the camera would let it serve as a video calling device like a Facebook Portal TV. It’s potentially a lot of functionality in a single Apple device.
The second device is a smart display similar to what competitors Amazon and Google already offer, combining features of an iPad and HomePod. Apple’s work on the device was previously reported by Bloomberg last month. Like the TV accessory, this device would also offer video chat features, but via its built-in screen rather than a connected TV. Apple is said to have explored using a robotic arm to rotate the display and track users, similar to Amazon’s 2020 Echo Show.
While Apple’s existing smart home devices have focused on one or two key areas, the functionality offered by the two rumored devices would be much broader. Bloomberg notes that Apple merged its HomePod and Apple TV engineering groups in 2020.
Apple’s smart home lineup could use a shot in the arm. The company hasn’t updated its Apple TV hardware lineup since 2017, and it recently discontinued its high-end HomePod to focus on the more affordable HomePod mini. A hardware update for the Apple TV has been rumored for several months now, and recently discovered code suggests it might include support for 120Hz refresh rates.