Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

How Apple could improve upon Google’s Pixel Tablet speaker with the HomePod

The Google Pixel Tablet and accompanied speaker dock haven’t officially launched yet, but we think we know a way Apple could beat Google at its own game.

With the announcement of the Pixel Tablet, Google is back in the tablet game, kinda sorta. It’s Android, but not as you know it, with a Home Screen that looks like Google has made a portable interpretation of its Nest Hub devices complete with a speaker that works as a charging dock for the tablet.

It’s an idea that makes some sense, but also feels a touch limited, thanks in part to its price and application: at a starting price of $799 in Australia, the Google Pixel Tablet isn’t exactly inexpensive, and feel like a weird proposition given it is primarily focused on the home.

According to Google’s own research in the area, tablets largely stay home, so the Pixel Tablet is meant for the home. There’s no 5G option and the device — which is like an 11 inch Pixel 7 phone without the mobile and camera capability — is a tablet made to keep by your bedside, your desk, your kitchen, and so on.

It will come with a speaker complete with a pogo pin port to charge the Pixel Tablet, while amping up the sound just that little bit more. Designed very much like a Google Nest Hub, the Pixel Tablet sits on a speaker and provides sound through the dock.

But that speaker dock is only compatible with the Pixel Tablet, and nothing else. It will probably be compatible with future Google tablets, but right now, it’s just the one.

Interestingly, Apple has a similar charging port on almost every one of its iPad models: the Smart Connector.

Similar to the three pin pogo connector Google’s Pixel Tablet uses, the Apple Smart Connector is primarily used for its Magic Keyboard case, connecting a keyboard in a case with a magnet to hold the iPad in place.

Apple’s Smart Connector can be found on the iPad Air and the more expensive iPad Pro, while the recent revision of the standard iPad uses a different variation and the iPad Mini lacks the port entirely.

With half of the iPad range sporting the pins, it’s pretty easy to see what Apple could do to create its own take on the Pixel Tablet charging stand, and at the same time build its own style of the Google Nest Hub: add the Smart Connector port to a HomePod.

The HomePod is surprisingly thick and tall, like a nicely rounded and well-shaped cylinder, and while there’s some internal changes Apple would likely need to make, if it added a charging block, some magnets, and the Smart Connector to a variation of the HomePod, it could essentially have a HomePod with an iPad mounted to the front, similar to what Google is trying in the Pixel Tablet with speaker dock.

We’ve mocked up an example of how this style of HomePod could look. It could essentially be a HomePod that works as a HomePod all the time, and when a supported iPad is attached, it could amplify the sound for what’s on screen while turning into a smart display of sorts.

We’ve suspected for a long time that Apple was working on its own variation of the Nest Hub, which would likely be a smart display with the guts of a HomePod, or even the smaller HomePod Mini.

Apple makes so many devices with screens, that it makes sense for the company to offer one with a speaker built in that could be used in the kitchen, bedside, and so on and so on.

Currently, it offers two smart speakers, but no smart displays, even though its rivals of Amazon and Google both offer gadgets in both categories.

As it is, an iPad can be used with a HomePod without necessarily being connected physically to one. Simply holding the iPad near a HomePod will activate the hand-off feature, allowing music to be handed from one device to the other.

But if Apple added this port to a specialised version of the HomePod, it would mean an iPad could become a smart display for the home, and then taken away for use like a regular tablet. Nothing specifically dedicated, and a speaker that works well with or without the tablet. Apple could even call it the HomePod+.

As to whether Apple is working on something like this remains to be seen, but if this does pop up in time, we’ll at least know that great minds think alike.

Read next