Why the next HomePod should be an Apple TV

Dana Hartweg
Apr 19, 2018 · 4 min read

I’ll start by saying that I love my HomePod. It sounds phenomenal no matter what’s playing. I didn’t think I would ever be so giddy about listening to music (heck, even someone’s voice).

But, forcing all connections through AirPlay, especially an Apple TV, leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, I knew it wasn’t a connected sound bar when I bought it; I simply figured it would work well enough until the software caught up with the hardware. There was no way the HomePod could be worse than built-in TV speakers, and it would be far more convenient (not to mention beautiful) than a home theater in a box.

Current pain-points

Controlling media

  • You can’t ask Siri to play movies for you, or do anything other than what AirPlay allows with standard media controls.
  • While you’re paused, don’t let the screensaver kick in, or Siri won’t be able to start playing your content again.
  • Good luck with anything that isn’t video. AirPlay and the HomePod process the incoming digital stream so thoroughly that it can’t help but get there late.

Connecting devices

  • Heaven forbid you listen to music between sessions of Netflix… you’ll have to manually set the Apple TV output to the HomePod.
  • Manually setting the output to the HomePod? Yup, you have to start playing content first, or be on the home screen. It sure would be nice for Siri to make that connection, or have the Apple TV be a default source if nothing else is playing.
  • AirPlay from your phone? It might work, it might not. Not only do you have to choose between the Apple TV or the HomePod as your output (since they’re both valid AirPlay connections), but sometimes the Apple TV just doesn’t forward the audio. Which does make some sense - that’s the second AirPlay connection being made.

The solution? Combine the two.

It makes sense on a hardware level

Apple has a home run on their hands with the quality (both build and sound) of the HomePod, but they’ve struggled to convince people that they’ve added value at the current price-point. The Apple TV is due for an update any time now, and by some counts, the HomePod has been struggling to sell in the numbers that Apple expected. Combine the two and charge the same as the current HomePod (perhaps a little bit more), and they would be providing a lot more value.

More importantly, this would give the Apple TV a priority access connection to the HomePod speaker, no latency involved. All of your AirPlay connections still function as you would expect. All of those games the Apple TV touts? Yup, they now get the same amazing audio quality.

It makes sense on an experience level

You have a power cable, and you have an HDMI cable. Nothing else to connect or try to hide.

Apple can now guarantee you have first-class video experience and a first-class audio experience. This is especially important since they’ve removed the optical audio port as of the 4th generation.

Siri now has full access to control content on your Apple TV, without having to rely on the remote you’ve probably lost underneath the cushions (well, it couldn’t be there, because then it wouldn’t be lost).

Siri now controls your TV, too

You’re listening to music, but want to transition to a movie. Tell Siri to play said movie… the music stops, your TV automatically turns on (via HDMI-CEC) and sets itself to the correct input by the time its started playing.

Watching something on your antenna or another input? The Apple TV can make sure the internal TV volume is muted when you switch back to watching something it controls. By that same token, you also get voice control of normal TV functions: volume, channel, and so forth.

Want to AirPlay something from one of your other devices? You get the picture. Your TV responds to what you want to do.

Bonus ideas

Add a camera

You’ve just opened up video communication in your living room. FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo (or Hangouts)… you can stay connected to your family via the largest screen in your house. Having full control of your TV, it can automatically come to life when you receive a call.

Future versions of HDMI-CEC (or even just filters on the video stream) would allow the Apple TV to calibrate optimal display settings based on your current viewing conditions.

See you later Nest, Canary, and all of those other home connected security devices. Combine the chillingly accurate microphone array of the HomePod with a camera, and you’ve introduced the basis for great home security. The HomePod and Apple TV are already used as HomeKit hubs, why not give users a push towards that ecosystem by bundling this as a free feature with their HomePod Plus purchase (let’s be honest, this is the most likely naming scheme).

If you want to get really fancy, really quick, add a little extra tech (there’s plenty of room in there, folks) to enable Face ID. Authenticate users to know who’s talking to Siri; no more passwords to purchase content; automatically load Netflix profiles for the person watching (or lock your child to the kids profile). The possibilities are endless.

Modify the remote

Remove the microphone. Heck, remove all the buttons and make the thing one giant multi-touch pad that has one purpose: navigation. Users hold it horizontally (just like the orientation of their TV), use it to scroll around and select things, and use Siri for everything else.

This has the added benefit of pushing the Apple TV forward as a gaming platform, which is something they’ve struggled with.

If Apple isn’t already working on this, you can be sure they will be soon. For anyone at Apple reading this, I’ll be waiting patiently for my royalty check.

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