I am not so sure about the HomePod being a failure - I never understood why this device was being portrayed being one. I think it is more complicated. This will get quite a lengthy post.
The HomePod is the only option if you want to have a decent sounding smart speaker with full Siri integration and dealing as a HomeKit hub in one device. Some may also say the HomePod mini fits into this category. I do not agree. I cannot stand listening to music on one HomePod mini. And it even has its limitations as a stereo pair - yes it is nice how Apple is able to distribute sound across the room, but it is a sound limited by the HomePod mini’s small footprint and - yes - physics.
The big HomePod mitigates these issues to some degree. Its bigger footprint and its built in components are able to do a decent job playing music, especially when used as a stereo pair. What I absolutely cannot understand are some “wow” reviews of some YouTubers as if those HomePods are able to make fire or are able to fly across the universe: They are decent smart speakers and the only smart speaker choice if you are truly invested in the Apple universe as fas as I am concerned. But that’s it. Why the only smart speaker choice? Because Apple does not allow other vendors to integrate in the Apple ecosystem in a way like the HomePods are able to do (Siri integration is crucial for interacting with HomeKit devices and so on).
Regarding the Home Pod 2 in particular:
If this product really would not make any sense in the first place, there would not be the demand we are currently seeing. Nor would there have been this crazy grey market on Ebay during the last two years. Or (excellent) services like this one: Nic’s Excellent HomePod Repair Service - Podfeet Podcasts
I own two HomePods and two HomePod minis. Would I buy the new HomePod 2? Yes. Would I buy new HomePod minis? No. Because to me it is very important how music does sound. I do not consider myself an audiophile (really!), but being a (hobby) musician myself knowing how instruments do sound, how a human voice can sound, listening to music on speakers sometimes can “hurt” my ears and my brain (I am not talking about Pop and Rock). I remember a vacation in London about 15 years ago. By coincidence I stumbled into a performance of the London Symphony Orchestra in Canary Wharf, London (not a very good YouTube video maybe even from that particular occasion). No entry fee, free for all, it was like a picnic situation in the summer: the LSO performing outside on a stage, being amplified by a professional sound system which was necessary in this setting. It was a fantastic experience. And it was in some way disappointing sound-wise, too. If you ever experienced an orchestra in a concert hall or if you are playing an instrument, you know what I mean.
What I am trying to articulate here in this beautiful language that is not my mother tongue: there are the laws of physics. No smart speaker is able to really reproduce sound the way how an instrument or a voice has created it in the first place. No matter if it is from SONOS or from Apple. Listening to music on a stereo pair of HomePods is a tolerable experience. It is convenient and energy efficient. If you really want to enjoy music, almost any mid-class stereo speaker system with a receiver and AirPlay capabilities will beat any smart speaker system. My sound system consists of speakers worth about 800 Euro (just the stereo pair) and a Yamaha receiver of about 600 Euro. The output of that system is way better than anything HomePods can deliver (and still far away from being high-end Hi-Fi equipment). But… this sound system is not running 24/7. It is for those occasions when I am on the sofa enjoying music. Most of the time, I just want to listen to some music without the need to switch on the sound system, without the need to switch to the AirPlay input option. And this is where I really like the HomePod. It is not great, sometimes it is not even good (like the FAZ article’s author has explained quite well), but for me it is the best option for that use case.
Ok, so why on earth has Apple started selling the HomePod “again” and why did they stop doing so in the first place if it is a good product? Only Apple knows, but both decisions do make sense from my point of view:
There have been quite many hardware failures with the old HomePod. Also one of my two HomePods had to be replaced (luckily during warranty while they still were selling them).
Apple was able to apparently cut back hardware costs (and reduce built in components) with this interior redesign while maintaining the sound quality (and maybe improving the built quality hopefully reducing the amount of hardware failures in the future).
There is a demand for the HomePod - as we have seen during the last two years and also now watching the backorder time. Why not fulfilling this demand with a product that now has a potentially even higher margin?
When my old HomePods will fail, they will be replaced with the “new” one - and potentially even my two Minis.
P.S. My intention is not to talk down SONOS, it just is not for me.