HomePod refresh coming at Apple's March event? Here's the clue

Apple running out of stock of a three-year old product? Two weeks ahead of an expected announcement? Something's up

Apple HomePod March Event
(Image credit: Apple)

Right now, if you wanted to buy the regular Apple HomePod in Space Grey from the Apple Store online in the US, you couldn't. It's out of stock. This is quite a surprise for a product first released in 2018, and one that's never exactly flown off the shelves, despite sounding truly incredible for its size. But with Apple's March event expected to be announced soon, the timing is very notable. 

Apple's mastery of its production means that, after the initial period where things are often hard to get hold of – as was the case with the HomePod Mini, which was almost permanently out of stock in the run up to Christmas – it's pretty rare for something to sell out.

It usually means that Apple has intentionally let stock run down, which generally means either a replacement is coming or it's just going to be discontinued. You might think that we're stretching to read the tea leaves here, and… well, okay, we're not not doing that. But just a few days ago it was noted that Apple was no longer offering some versions of the iMac Pro, and Apple has since confirmed that this is because it's being discontinued. So it certainly fits the pattern.

The lack of Space Grey HomePods was noted by French site Consomac (via MacRumors), and it's a bit of a surprise since there haven't been many rumours or leaks about an updated model, unlike the AirPods 3 and iPad Pro (2021) we're expecting to see.

However, a new HomePod model would make a lot of sense. On the HomePod Mini, Apple introduced Ultra-wideband support, meaning that when you move your iPhone near to it, you get a buzzing to tell you that it can transfer whatever you're playing over to the HomePod. It's a nice feature, and requires new hardware to operate. There's also a different design to its swirling light panel, where they cover the entire top of the device, unlike the small circle of lights on the original HomePod, which feel a bit basic in comparison.

The original HomePod's biggest issue was its price, which was well justified in our opinion for its sound quality, but it wasn't quite as well featured as the very best smart speakers, which made it stand out as an awkward balance for value overall. Perhaps a new model will bring equivalent sound quality for cheaper – or maybe it'll stay a similar price, and Apple will bring Dolby Atmos height into the mix, similar to the Amazon Echo Studio

There are already rumours of a new Apple TV coming, so a new HomePod with a focus on home theatre sound would make a great pairing.

Or maybe it's just that Apple happened to run out of this specific product. Unusual, but certainly possible during the pandemic. We'd bet on there being more going on, though.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.