Apple is reportedly developing a new TV accessory that combines elements of its Apple TV with a HomePod speaker and camera for video calling, according to a new report from BloombergIn addition, Apple would also work on a smart speaker with a screen, similar to Amazon’s Echo Show or Google’s Nest Hub. Development of both devices is reportedly in its infancy, with plans that could change.
The unannounced TV accessory would have the hardware to fill a variety of roles. As a TV accessory, it could provide access to games and the streaming video services supported by Apple TV today; while the built-in speaker would likely be an upgrade over most TV sets, similar to Roku’s sound bars. It would also support HomePod features such as music playback and Siri voice assistant controls, much like the Sonos Beam offerings with Alexa and Google Assistant. Finally, the camera would let it serve as a video calling device like a Facebook Portal TV. There may be a lot of functionality on one Apple device.
The second device is a smart display similar to what competitors Amazon and Google already offer, combining the functions of an iPad and HomePod. Apple’s work on the device was earlier indicated by Bloomberg last monthLike the TV accessory, this device also offers video chat functions, but via the built-in screen instead of a connected TV. Apple is said to have explored using a robotic arm to rotate the screen and track users, similar to Amazon’s 2020 Echo Show.
While Apple’s existing smarthome devices have focused on one or two key areas, the functionality of the two rumored devices is said to be much broader. Bloomberg notes that Apple merged its HomePod and Apple TV engineering groups in 2020.
Apple’s smart home setup could use a shot in the arm. The company hasn’t updated its Apple TV hardware range since 2017 and recently discontinued its high-end HomePod to focus on the more affordable HomePod mini. There are rumors of a hardware update for the Apple TV for several months now, and recently discovered code suggests it may support 120 Hz refresh rates.