As my colleague Zac Hall noted yesterday, the Apple home strategy is kind of a mess. It truly warrants a conversation around what the company wants to accomplish in customers’ homes. Because Apple TV and HomePod are both in weird states, it occurred to me that it might be valuable to imagine how the two product lines could come together. Enter HomePod TV…
Smart displays in the home have become an important component of the smart home story. Whether it’s the Google Nest Hub or the Amazon Echo Show, Apple’s major competitors have both figured out that they can sell more expensive home speakers by adding a display to them.
Apple already has all of the major things they need to create an awesome smart display for HomeKit. It starts with the same 10.2″ Retina display panel from the $329 iPad. It’s more affordable and certainly nowhere near as beautiful as the iPad Pro’s display, but it’s still a nice one. And since you won’t be staring at it for long periods of time up close, it’s not really a necessity to have the absolute best display. Mount that display to a smaller iMac style foot with adjustable angles, and you have a perfect home smart display.
Clock faces and screensavers
When a smart display isn’t in use, it should show a beautiful clock and/or pertinent information of your choosing. Apple already knows how to make beautiful clocks. They could extend the same watch faces that make Apple Watch such a beautiful timepiece to a larger display. Some of the complications could make the jump too, like Fitness rings.
Just like Apple Watch, you could tap and hold to switch your clock face. This is far easier than the solutions that current smart displays use. Usually you have to dig through settings.
The screensavers on tvOS are a truly beloved part of the platform and they’d make for stunning digital clock backgrounds. Whether it’s panning over a city at night or over some cliffs in the daytime, the display could show off beautiful scenery whenever you want it to.
tvOS on smaller displays
tvOS is an important part of this story. HomePod and HomePod mini already run variants of tvOS with HomeKit support. Apple could take the existing tvOS interface and optimize it for smaller displays. There are a few key changes I would make though to improve the experience. Most of these changes revolve around needing touch input.
You’d just swipe up on the clock to reveal your apps below it with each row featuring four apps. Instead of the featured images that appear on Apple TV, the clock would stay there with the ability to horizontally swipe between different glances like weather and calendar.
tvOS would need a few new apps to round out the smart display. The first one is a new Home app. Currently tvOS has HomeKit controls in the new control center. But a dedicated app would be very important in a product like this. It’d have to show large buttons and have easy-to-touch toggles.
When it comes to smart displays, audio is incredibly important. You could of course use Siri to play any video or audio you want. The same great apps for Music and Podcasts would come over from Apple TV. You can see beautiful album artwork as well as lyrics. All of the apps available on tvOS would also be downloadable from the App Store on HomePod TV. Every service would already be ready to go on day one.
The iPad Pro has incredible quad speakers. Because of the aluminum base and the lack of a need for a battery, a ton of extra space opens up. Those same amazing speakers in the 12.9″ iPad Pro could theoretically fit inside of a smaller device and still provide the same booming sound.
You could also pair the HomePod TV with HomePod minis to create an even better surround sound audio experience in any space.
Facetime and TrueDepth profiles
They’d also be great for Facetime and Facetime Audio calls. The camera above the display would gain the same LED currently on MacBooks for indicating when the camera and/or microphone are on. Better yet, if they included a TrueDepth camera module, the HomePod TV could tell what family member is using the device and show different profiles. tvOS already has the infrastructure for different profiles.
This product would absolutely be a highly premium device. It would likely be more expensive than the original HomePod even was. But customers would better understand the value they are getting out of a device with a display, even at a higher price point.
There are so many different things that could be done with a product like this from Apple. It could act as a small Sidecar display on your desk. With games from Apple Arcade it could be a small mounted gaming tablet you can pair with a controller. The possibilities are kind of endless.
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