An Apple smart soundbar with a FaceTime camera plus HomePod and Apple TV functionality is allegedly still in the works

Apple continues to work on a smart soundbar that would have a FaceTime camera for video calls and provide HomePod and Apple TV functionality.

A conceptual rendering depicting an Apple-branded soundbar providing some of the features of the Apple TV and HomePod, with a built-in display
Image credit: Philip Goolkasian / Behance
  • An April 2021 report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claimed Apple was developing a gadget that would provide Apple TV and HomePod features along with a built-in camera for video calling.
  • Now Gurman has reiterated that Apple’s work on such a device continues, suggesting the project has progressed from the early stages of development.
  • A new HomePod mini might be coming, too.

Is Apple working on a smart soundbar with HomePod, Apple TV and FaceTime features?

Gurman wrote in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter on Bloomberg he’s “absolutely” convinced the rumored device is coming, adding that it’d form the center of Apple’s living room strategy that also involves HomePod minis.

Q: Do you think a new HomePod or home device is still coming?
A: I absolutely do think a new HomePod is coming—specifically, a device that combines a HomePod, Apple TV and FaceTime camera. I don’t think a big stand-alone HomePod is still in development, but perhaps a new HomePod mini is coming. In any case, the combination product will probably be at the center of Apple’s approach, with HomePod minis surrounding that throughout the home.

To some people, the rumor may sound weird and not something Apple might want to do. But given that the company’s current approach in terms of the connected home has stagnated, a change in strategy could be just what the doctor ordered.

Why Apple’s living room strategy needs to be rethought

The Bloomberg rumor published in April 2021 suggested such an accessory would help expand Apple’s footprint in the living room.

Here’s an excerpt from the original report:

The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions. The device’s other capabilities would include standard Apple TV box functions like watching video and gaming plus smart speaker uses such as playing music and using Apple’s Siri digital assistant.

Gurman doesn’t say when he thinks Apple might release the hybrid accessory nor how far along the development process is currently. Clearly, something needs to be done because, as you know, the full-size HomePod has been discontinued in favor of the more affordable $99 HomePod mini. On top of that, the Apple TV box is ripe for a meaningful refresh. Read: How to set up your Apple TV the right way

An iPad with a robotic arm?

While it’s usually not a smart idea to bet against well-informed Gurman, we should point out that he also said in the same report that Apple was working on an Amazon Echo Show-like smart speaker with an integrated display.

Apple is also mulling the launch of a high-end speaker with a touch screen to better compete with market leaders Google and Amazon. Such a device would combine an iPad with a HomePod speaker and also include a camera for video chat.

The craziest part was the claim that Apple explored “connecting the iPad to the speaker with a robotic arm that can move to follow a user around a room.” Apple never released such a device, but it did release Center Stage, a software feature on some iPads that uses AI for intelligent cropping and zooming during video calls to follow a user around a room. Read: How to resize videos on iPhone and iPad