Apple Is Still Struggling to Unload Its Launch Day HomePods

Apple Is Still Struggling to Unload Its Launch Day HomePods
Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Two months ago, Apple decided to discontinue the original HomePod. And yet, it appears the product is still available in the Apple Store — and if you buy one, you might actually get sent a HomePod from the original launch stock.

Typically when a product is discontinued, you can find massive discounts, and if the product is remotely good that leftover inventory can vanish pretty quickly. For instance, according to 9to5 Mac, the iMac Pro was discontinued around the same time as the HomePod and leftover stock vanished before the month was over. The space grey HomePod was sold out before Apple made the decision to nix the device, but the white version is still for sale at about $380.

HomePod defenders might shrug and say, so what if it’s been two months? Well, YouTuber Michael Kukielka bought two HomePods after they’d been discontinued and both were apparently from Apple’s launch stock. As in, the HomePods were manufactured for the device’s launch in 2018 and sitting in boxes ever since. Kukielka posted proof that one of two HomePods he’d bought was produced on Dec. 19, 2017, while the other had been made on Feb. 3, 2018. The latter HomePod came out of the box running iOS 11.2.5 firmware, which was publicly released in January 2018. He also had another picture of the HomePod’s plug, covered in white dust from plastic breaking down after sitting in a box for over three years.

Look, we know the HomePod didn’t sell well, but this is next level.

The HomePod was one of Apple’s more public flops. While many reviewers praised its sound quality, the initial $469 price tag was a lot considering most other smart speakers at that time were much more affordable and came with a digital assistant that didn’t suck. Not helping matters was the fact that you were confined to Apple Music. If you wanted third-party music streaming, you’d have to rely on AirPlay, a feature that was readily available on other high-quality smart speakers like the Sonos One. About a year after launching, Apple permanently slashed the price of the HomePod from $469 to $380 in some regions. And if there’s one thing about Apple, permanent price cuts for an active product are beyond rare — they’re nearly unheard of.

It’s even harder to recommend the HomePod now that the more affordable HomePod Mini is here. Not only has the original not been discounted further, but also some owners couldn’t access Apple Music via Siri after updating to iOS 14.5. Given that Apple Music is only one of a handful of streaming services the device natively supports, this isn’t great. Meanwhile, the Mini is a third of the price, sounds impressive for its size, can do most of what the original can, and is competitively priced to rival smart speakers. It’s sort of a no-brainer.

While we don’t know the exact numbers, it’s also clear the HomePod Mini is selling much better than its predecessor did. The device sold out on day one, and Apple itself confirmed in a statement to multiple outlets that the Mini “has been a hit since its debut last fall.” To rub salt in the wound, market research firm Omdia estimated Apple sold 2.4 million smart speakers in the U.S. in Q1 of 2021, with 91% of those sales being the Mini. If the rest were the original HomePod, that would shake out to roughly 216,000 units sold. And yet, we’re still here two months later with leftover launch stock. Yeowch.