If you’ve been struggling to figure out Apple’s home strategy over the past few years, you’re not alone. Many believe that’s simply because the company doesn’t really have one. However, there’s plenty of evidence that it’s working hard to figure it out. Still, it’s been a wild ride and an often confusing mess.
In 2020, Apple seemed to be on the verge of entering the living room with a bang. We saw the introduction of the HomePod mini, and tvOS 14.2 came along with an exciting new Home Theater Mode, allowing two full-sized HomePods to be paired up with an Apple TV to create a stunning Dolby Atmos sound stage.
On top of that, rumors persisted of a powerful new Apple TV that would incorporate an “A14X-like” chip designed to handle the next generation of Apple Arcade games. It felt like an exciting time for Apple’s home entertainment ambitions.
Sadly, in early 2021, everything fell apart. First, Apple inscrutably killed off the full-sized HomePod only four months after announcing the Home Theater Audio feature — which worked only with that original HomePod.
Then, as folks were still flocking to scoop up some full-sized HomePods before they all disappeared, Apple added insult to injury by releasing a new Apple TV 4K with features exclusive to the discontinued smart speaker. Apple even put a picture of the original HomePod on the back of the box to show users they could pair two HomePods for wireless surround sound — assuming they could still get their hands on two HomePods.
Apple partially rectified this a few months in tvOS 15 when it added the ability for the HomePod mini to be used with the Apple TV. However, the smaller speakers weren’t capable of Dolby Atmos 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, making it a