Apple almost released a portable, battery-powered HomePod for use outdoors

Apple has allegedly prototyped (but never turned into a final product) a portable version of its HomePod speaker for outdoor use that ran on battery power.

Apple's marketing image showing a male hand holding an iPhone near to a blue HomePod mini to transfer music
Image credit: Apple
  • Apple apparently prototyped a battery-powered HomePod
  • A portable HomePod speaker was ultimately scrapped
  • Apple may revive the product at any point though

Outdoor parties with a battery-powered HomePod

This has happened “years ago,” according to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter. It’s unclear whether Apple has killed the project or put it on hold. Read: How to AirPlay audio to your HomePod speaker without Wi-Fi

Years ago, Apple internally discussed and prototyped a battery-powered smart speaker, but I would be surprised if one ever launches under the Apple brand. The speakers on the iPhone and iPad are pretty decent at this point, and I’m sure Apple would rather consumers buy those for mobile playback than a cheaper HomePod.

Of course, Apple designed the original, full-size HomePod, along with HomePod mini, with a built-in power cord because the product is meant to be plugged into a wall outlet. A battery-powered HomePod mini, for instance, would make a great product but Gurman doesn’t believe Apple will be launching such a device under its brand.

If Apple does get back into the battery-powered speaker game, I’d guess it returns under the Beats brand. That’s the same place Apple has tucked cheaper audio gear in the past.

The report doesn’t explain why a prototype was never turned into a final product.

Will Apple ever release a HomePod on battery power?

Of course, just because Apple has prototyped but never released a version of the product doesn’t mean it has ultimately scrapped those plans. The company may have decided, for instance, that the timing for such a product wasn’t right, putting it on the back burner.

Or, it might have chosen not to release it because early prototypes were bad and it needed more time to smooth out the rough edges. Whichever the case, only Apple knows whether it’s abandoned the idea of releasing a portable, battery-powered HomePod (eagle-eyed readers could point out that Apple’s first-ever portable speaker was iPod Hi-Fi, released in February 2016 and discontinued after just 18 months).

Is there a market for a portable HomePod?

As much as we’d like to see such a product, it may lack a sustainable market.

Look no further than the Beats Pill+ line of Bluetooth, battery-powered speakers launched in 2018 that got discontinued in January 2022. The Bluetooth speaker featured a built-in battery that could last around twelve hours on a single charge. Its small form factor made it ideal for moving around, either while in a house or out and about.

But discontinuing the speaker says a lot about how viable this market was for Apple. If enough people were buying the Pill+ speakers, Apple wouldn’t discontinue the line. And with the Pill+ now permanently removed from the Beats lineup, the Beats brand is now essentially focused on wireless headphones and earbuds.

While this is indicative of Apple’s strategy going further, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company has abandoned the idea of a portable HomePod for good. Don’t forget that the Pill+ didn’t have any smarts or computational audio capabilities found on the HomePod line. If Apple were to continue competing in the market for portable Bluetooth speakers, then the company would definitely need a brand new portable speaker.