Why a HomePod With a Screen Is Actually a Pretty Great Idea

And why hasn't Apple made one already?

  • Apple may not come out with a HomePod smart screen until next year. 
  • Plenty of other smart screens are available, but none offers Apple's privacy. 
  • It could also be the first iOS device with a screen to support multiple users.
Someone touching the screen on a Home Hub smarthome device.

Trevor Williams / Getty Images

A HomePod smart speaker with a screen would be an awesome device, so why can't Apple seem to make one already?

The technology is there. A HomePod with a screen could literally be an iPhone screen with the HomePod's great speakers behind it. So what's the holdup? After all, smart speakers with screens aren't exactly new. Amazon has the Echo Show, and Google has its Nest. Perhaps Apple just hasn't managed to get the software side of things right yet. Or maybe it is hamstrung by its own aversion to allowing more than one user to log into an iOS device. Whatever the reason, it's a real shame because a screened HomePod would be awesome.

"My wife often FaceTimes with her sister in the mornings before work while she's getting her breakfast together. She pops her phone on the stand and sometimes sends the audio to the kitchen HomePod if she's got noisy breakfast cooking going on. A device like that would be great for her," writes HomePod owner Seek3r in a MacRumors forum thread participated in by Lifewire.

What Is a HomePod With Screen Good For?

At the risk of stating the obvious, there are two parts of a smart screen/speaker, and Apple is peerless in making both. The regular HomePod is already the best smart speaker you can buy in terms of sound quality. And the iPhone's screen is similarly hard to beat. Now, you don't really need a fancy screen if all you're doing is looking at reminders, choosing music, and so on, but Apple being Apple, it will probably be doing a bit more than that. 

With the assistance of visual displays, users, for instance, can view directions for preparing recipes, watch films, and operate the equipment in their smart homes.

Imagine a larger HomePod with a big iPad Pro-sized screen, a kind of portable TV for the modern day. It would be amazing to watch movies and TV shows on that, with the addition of Spatial Audio like you already get on current MacBooks. 

But a screen can be useful for all kinds of other things too and doesn't have to be much bigger than an iPhone or iPad mini. For example, if you have a HomeKit camera set up somewhere, you can view its feed or recordings on the device. You could see who's at the door, for example, or ask Siri to show you the front porch to see if the delivery person has just dumped the box and run off again. 

"Because it has a screen, the HomePod can display a variety of different types of visual material, including images, movies, and animations. This would make the user's experience better while opening up new doors for interactive content. With the assistance of visual displays, users, for instance, can view directions for preparing recipes, watch films, and operate the equipment in their smart homes," James White of design, communication, and media training company MediaFirst told Lifewire via email. 

You can do all of this with other smart screens, but there's one important feature that none of them have…

Smart Home Privacy

A HomePod with a screen is a perfect Home Hub, as Apple calls it. It's a central brain for any of your smart home devices, and unlike other vendors, Apple offers one essential feature: privacy. If you use HomeKit Secure Video, for example, the video recordings are encrypted and can only be unlocked by a key stored on your devices. While Amazon and Google's offerings might provide the same functionality, Amazon's warrantless sharing of your private Ring camera footage and Google's love of hoarding user data to sell ads better might make you think twice about trusting them. 

Closeup on someone touching a smarthome system.

d3sign / Getty Images

Apple's welcome obsession with privacy brings us to our final point: multiple users sharing the same device. If we take the iPhone and iPad as the model for Apple's future HomePod screen, it doesn't look good. Well over a decade into its life, the iPad remains, like the iPhone, strictly single-user (a multi-user option is available in education, but as schools mostly use Chromebooks, it's a rather niche feature). No matter how powerful your iPad is, no matter that it has plenty of RAM and storage—you cannot let another person log in and use it like you can with a Mac. 

Fortunately, the answer comes from Apple's own HomePods. When you first set up a new HomePod, you can have it recognize your voice and use that to personalize your experience.

For example, it will draw music from your own Apple Music library and playlists and allow you to interact with the calendar, have Siri read your messages, and so on. This works for multiple users and should be how a future HomePod with a screen would work. If it ever gets here.

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