We crack open the Apple HomePod for a look at the tech that it takes to pack Siri's brain into a great-sounding smart speaker.
Apple's HomePod delivers superb sound quality, gives you access to Siri without using your iPhone, and lets you control your smart home devices through HomeKit. The $349 (£319, AU$499) smart speaker has a 4-inch high-excursion woofer, seven horn-loaded tweeters, and a six-microphone array (there's a seventh microphone). It offers both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. To find out how Apple packed all this tech into a cylindrical speaker that resembles a 2013 Mac Pro (the trash can Mac) wrapped in cloth mesh, we cracked open the HomePod.
SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)
HomePod teardown: Tedious and time consuming
Apple designed the HomePod to be disassembled and repaired... but only to a certain point. I was able to remove the LED control panel, a pair of circuit boards, the outer acoustic mesh cover, and the silicone base pad (source of the #staingate controversy).
Unfortunately the speakers, microphones, audio amplifiers, and power supply circuits are contained within a sealed plastic housing. There was no way for me to access these components without destroying the HomePod. My goal is always to put the devices we crack open back together in working order, so I stopped our teardown and turned my attention to identifying the components attached to the two circuit boards.
It's no wonder repairing the HomePod costs $279, which is 80% of the speaker's initial $349 price tag. If you blow a speaker or the mics quit working, you basically need a whole new HomePod.
The components: Tech from iPhones past and present
Even without sawing open the HomePod's acoustic chamber, we were able to identity the following chips:
- Apple A8 APL1011 SoC (This is the same processor used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. There's probably 1 GB of RAM hiding under the A8 chip in what's called a package-on-package configuration.)
- SK hynix H2JTDG8UD1CMR 16 GB NAND flash
- USI 339S00452 WiFi/Bluetooth module (According to TechInsights, this module contains the same Broadcom BCM43572 used in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.)
- Apple/Dialog 338S00100-AZ power management IC
- Texas Instruments TLC5971 RGB LED Drivers (According to reports from TechInsights and iFixit, which removed the metal shields the LED control board.)
- Cypress CY8C4245LQI-483 Programmable System-on-Chip (PSoC) (According to reports from TechInsights and iFixit, which removed the metal shields the LED control board.)
- Gallery: Top 10 accessories for Apple's HomePod (ZDNet)
- Why I'm thinking about getting a HomePod (and it's not for Apple Music) (ZDNet)
- Apple HomePod review: Great sound, but it's trapped in Apple's world (CNET)
- Apple's Siri: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Photos: Cracking Open the Amazon Echo cloud-connected speaker (TechRepublic)