After two years, Apple just unexpectedly revived its full-size HomePod, and all I can think about is how much I want the Google Home Max to be brought back.
Apple just relaunched the HomePod
In an unexpected move earlier today, Apple brought back the full-size HomePod.
Originally launched in 2017, the HomePod was a premium smart speaker with Siri on board and killer audio quality. But limits on Siri at the time combined with the high price tag made for a tough sell. That led to the product being discontinued in 2021, a few months after the introduction of the much cheaper HomePod Mini.
9to5Mac has the full breakdown on what’s new with the updated HomePod, but in essence, it really is a revival of Apple’s first Siri smart speaker.
But what’s on my mind with this announcement is the Google Home Max. The premium speaker was announced around the same time as HomePod and actually beat out Apple’s speaker in blind audio tests. But like Apple, Google ended up pulling the plug on Home Max, though the company technically did it first in late 2020. The product was officially removed from sale in early 2021.
And in the two years since, there’s been nothing on a successor.
The missing piece of Google’s audio lineup?
For me, the lack of a Google Home Max replacement has long felt like a missing piece in Google’s smart home speaker lineup. There’s the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max, the Nest Mini and Nest Audio, but no “Nest Max.” And as good as the Nest Audio is, it never could replace the experience of the Google Home Max.
That speaker stood out from the rest of Google’s lineup for a few reasons. For one, the massive physical size of the speaker delivered unmatched audio quality and deep bass. Secondly, the adaptive audio of the Home Max remains a feature that Google hasn’t replicated in any of its other speakers.
And finally, the Home Max served as more than just a smart speaker, with a handy 3.5mm input jack on the back for using with other audio sources. In 2023, Google still hasn’t delivered support for using Google Assistant speakers with Google TV as promised, but I use my Home Max with my TV each and every day, thanks to that simple port.
What could a new Google Home Max do better?
Of course, to get a new Home Max out there, there needs to be a good reason. So, what could a Home Max sequel even look like?
Really, that’s hard to see. The biggest thing I’d love to see delivered on is the expansion of Soli technology. Google is using that radar tech that hit the scene on Pixel 4 first back in 2020 in devices such as the Nest Thermostat and the latest Nest Hub, but a device like the Home Max could probably make even better use of it. Whether that’s as simple as finally putting out the wildly cool air gestures Google originally teased years ago or something more advanced, like using radar mapping to improve the adaptive sound output, it could be amazing.
A new version of this form factor could also surely benefit from Google’s advancements in audio tech in recent years – that new audio team behind the Pixel Buds Pro comes to mind – and integrate new smart home tech such as Matter, just like Apple’s refresh has.
A new Google Home Max probably won’t happen
Despite what I want to happen, the sad truth is that Google probably won’t build anything like the Home Max anytime in the near future.
There are a few key reasons, starting with the practicality of it. The Google Home Max was a huge piece of hardware and an expensive one on top of that. While it stands to reason that Google could use advancements over the past few years to create a similar experience in a smaller design and for less, why should it? Customers have clearly spoken that the smaller, cheaper smart speakers are plenty. And to that end, Google’s offerings are quite solid. Nest Mini sounds stellar for its price, and Nest Audio is also excellent for its size. Neither is nearly as good as the Home Max was, even when using a stereo pair, but they’re not exactly bad either.
The other main reason is that Google is a very different company now than it was back in 2017 when the Home Max originally launched. Especially now, Google isn’t really “experimenting” with Assistant hardware, and it’s actively scaling back a lot of Assistant projects. A brand new, high-end speaker designed around Assistant just isn’t feasible for Google in 2023, even if Apple is bringing back its competitor.
Perhaps a revival of the Chromecast Audio or a clone of the Echo Link or Echo Input would be better suited to people who want better sound quality out of their Assistant speakers. In the meantime, are just getting cheaper and cheaper.
That said, Google does appear to be working on some “high-end” speaker with UWB support. So, fingers crossed?
More on Google:
- Google Assistant beats out Siri and Bixby in comparison while Alexa cries in the corner
- Home Assistant is working on a local-only voice alternative to Google Assistant & Alexa
- Google accidentally reveals an upcoming device will launch with Fuchsia
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Author: Ben Schoon