Apple testing tvOS 17 on iPad mini as it works on new HomePod

It’s been a while since we’ve heard rumors about Apple’s ambitious plans to expand the HomePod lineup. A few days ago, we got a first look at a prototype HomePod with an LCD screen on top. However, Apple wants to go even further, and 9to5Mac has just learned that the company has been experimenting with a modified iPad mini running tvOS for a future HomePod.

Apple has been experimenting with iPad mini 6 running tvOS

Apple on Thursday released the first beta of iOS 17.2, along with tvOS 17.2 beta and other software updates. Interestingly, by digging into the firmware of tvOS 17.2 – the system that runs on both Apple TV and HomePod – we found strong evidence that Apple is internally running tvOS on the iPad.

For better context, every firmware released by Apple includes device support files that specify which devices the software can be installed on. When it comes to tvOS, this includes compatible Apple TV models, as well as HomePods. For some reason, the latest tvOS builds also have device support files for the iPad mini 6.

But that’s not all. Searching further, we discovered that the tvOS 17 SDK, which comes with Xcode 15, also includes hidden support for the iPad mini 6. To add fuel to the fire, some of the tvOS 17 frameworks that contain audio calibration data for every device supported by this operating system have also been updated with drivers for the iPad mini.

Of course, these files were never intended to be seen by end users or even developers and are probably leftovers from something Apple has been working on. What exactly? Presumably a new HomePod with a display that’s similar in size to an iPad mini.

Amazon Echo Show | New HomePod with display rumors
Amazon Echo Show

New HomePods with built-in display

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Apple has been working on multiple new smart home accessories, including a new smart display that combines HomePod and Apple TV in a single device. A few months later, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that the company plans to introduce a larger HomePod with a built-in 7-inch display.

For comparison, the iPad mini 6 has an 8.3-inch display. Since everything seems to be quite experimental for now, Apple’s engineers may have decided to run tvOS on the iPad mini to explore how the interface would work on such a device.

At the same time, Apple is developing a new version of the HomePod with a small LCD screen on top. This one is already at a more advanced stage of development and is expected to replace the HomePod 2 at some point in the near future. As for the version with a larger display, it’s unclear whether it will ever see the light of day.

Apple actively working on new HomePod with an LCD screen on top, sources say

StandBy Mode coming to iPadOS

That’s not the only thing Apple has been experimenting with. There were also reports that Apple wanted to launch a new dock accessory for the iPad, similar to Google’s Charging Speaker Dock for the Pixel Tablet. 9to5Mac obtained access to a preliminary interface of what would be the StandBy Mode tweaked for the iPad, which should be introduced with iPadOS 18 next year.

On the iPhone, StandBy Mode requires the iPhone to be placed horizontally on a stand in order to work. On the iPad, this mode would make perfect sense with a new dock accessory.

What do you think about having a HomePod with a fully functional display, or even a new dock accessory for the iPad? Let us know in the comments section below.

iOS 17 StandBy mode
StandBy Mode on iPhone

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