Apple to launch AirTags with custom accessories, smaller HomePod this year

Apple to launch smaller HomePod and AirTags with custom accessories this year
Apple is developing an extensive range of products for release later this year. The iPhone 12 Pro and first 5G iPad are some of the highlights in addition to a potential AirPower revival and a pair of premium over-ear Bluetooth headphones.

Other products that are in the pipeline include a new HomePod and the long-rumored AirTags, both of which have been further detailed today.

A cheaper, smaller HomePod to take on Google and Amazon

The HomePod smart speaker was announced almost three years ago and went on sale in February 2018. Despite its superior sound quality, sales never really took off because of the high price tag, and Apple has since gone back to the drawing board.

Bloomberg claims the Silicon Valley-based giant is now preparing an updated HomePod that is around half the size of the original. However, people familiar with the product say the design remains largely unchanged.

The smart speaker has reportedly been in development for several months and faced delays, although Apple is now understood to be targeting a release in the second half of this year. That means an unveiling alongside the iPhone 12 series in September is extremely likely.

Apple is expected to offer the new HomePod at a lower price in an attempt to compete more directly with Amazon and Google, who dominate the smart speaker landscape in the United States and globally right now. 

The Tim Cook-led company is working towards adding support for additional music streaming services too. Apple Music exclusivity was one of the biggest HomePod complains when it launched, and opening up the system to Spotify, YouTube Music, and Deezer should vastly broaden its appeal.

Lastly, Apple is working towards improving Siri and revamping its smart home efforts, which explains the recent AI startup acquisitions.

AirTags will be launched alongside official accessories

Another product being worked on right now is called AirTags. These are Tile-like tracking tags that will let users track real-world objects such as keys and wallets, per information provided by people who’ve seen prototypes.

This is made possible by the U1 ultra wideband chip featured inside both the trackers and the iPhone 11 series. That should provide significantly more accurate tracking when compared to traditional Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tile trackers. 

The expectation is that owners will be able to assign specific tags to items and easily track them through the Find My app on iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS devices.

To further facilitate item tracking, Apple is planning to bundle the accessories with an Apple-designed leather sleeve and a custom keychain to attach AirTags to objects. 

Bloomberg says AirTags are planned for release at some point this year. A specific timeline wasn’t provided, but previous reports have mentioned an announcement at the virtual WWDC press conference in early June.

Refreshed budget iPads and much more

Apple has loads of other devices on the way aside from the ones mentioned above. Perhaps the most interesting will be a refreshed budget iPad to replace the 10.2-inch iPad introduced last September. 

The upgrades will presumably include a faster processor and a few other tweaks, but no major external changes are expected at this stage. Apple may also be looking into updating the iPad Mini and iPad Air, which are now over one year old.

Bloomberg says Apple is developing new versions of the Apple TV, MacBook Pro, and iMac too.

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