Apple in March released new 13.4 software designed for the HomePod, alongside of the release of iOS 13.4 and tvOS 13.4. 9to5Mac recently looked at the HomePod code and says that Apple made a curious change with the new software — the HomePod operating system is now based on tvOS instead of iOS.
watchOS, tvOS, and the software that run on the HomePod are all variants of iOS, but each one is differentiated by tweaks made for the device the software is intended to run on, featuring unique interfaces, APIs, and more.
Unlike prior versions of the HomePod software, which were based on the operating system found on the iPhone and iPad, the HomePod’s software is now derived from tvOS. Because the operating systems are the same at the core, this hasn’t resulted in any fundamental changes to the way that the HomePod works.
9to5Mac believes that shifting the HomePod software to a tvOS base has the potential to save Apple some work, as both the Apple TV and the HomePod are always-on devices that are plugged in to power and won’t need the same optimizations as versions of iOS. Both devices also operate as a Home hub for HomeKit, which may also be a key reason why the two now share code.
It’s also possible that iOS 14 will end support for devices with the A8 chip, such as the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 4, and the HomePod is equipped with an A8 chip. Due to the possible end of support in iOS 14, swapping over to a tvOS base will allow Apple to keep pushing HomePod updates for the foreseeable future.
Rumors have suggested that Apple is developing a new smaller version of the HomePod that’s more affordable, which is set to launch in 2020, and that’s another possible reason for the code shift. 9to5Mac says that there are two new models of the HomePod referenced in iOS 13.4, though there is no additional information about them.
Just this morning, a Bloomberg report said that Apple is working on a new HomePod speaker that will be about half the size of the original, while maintaining the same design. Though it has faced delays, Apple is planning to launch the new HomePod in the second half of the year. It will feature a lower price the current HomePod, helping Apple compete with cheaper speaker options from companies like Amazon and Google.
On a separate but related note, 9to5Mac says that a “trusted source” has said that the next-generation Apple TV that’s been rumored for months now could be equipped with the same A14 chip that Apple is planning to use in the iPhone 12, which suggests a fall launch for the device. Both a new Apple TV and an updated HomePod could perhaps see similar launch dates this September or October, but there’s no concrete word on launch timing for either product.