Siri intelligent speaker At $99, the HomePod Mini is Apple's most inexpensive smart speaker. You should take a look if you're an active Siri user, or if you have already invested in Apple's ecosystem.
Apple disclosed the first HomePod two years after Amazon dropped its early small smart speaker.
Large and costly, with Siri still refining, it didn't sweep the market. Now, Apple is back at it with the HomePod Mini, a tinier, less costly smart speaker offering.
In short, if you like Apple -- and if Siri is your smart assistant of choice and HomeKit is your best home service -- you're going to love Apple's newest smart speaker. If you're already living with an iPhone, Apple TV, or original HomePod the Mini makes sense as your next small smart speaker.
Apple Homepod mini
• Compact design
• Affordable priced compared to big HomePod
• Good volume for its size
•Siri is quick
Why not good?
• still mostly dependent on Apple devices and services
• volume controls on top are fiddly
• Siri is still behind Google Assistant and Alexa in features and abilities
Apple HomePod Mini specifications
Dimensions: 3.3 inches (H) x 3.9 inches (W)
Weight: 0.76 pounds
Colors: White or Space Gray.
Processor: Apple S5 chip.
Audio technology: Full-range driver and dual passive radiators, an acoustic waveguide for 360-degree sound, computational audio, four-microphone design.
In the box: HomePod Mini with 20W adapter.
Special features: Apple U1 chip for seamless communication with the iPhone.
HomePod Mini setup
The Apple HomePod mini set-up process is incredibly simple – it's easily the best we've seen for any smart speaker, especially if you've not owned a smart speaker before and are worried that setting one up would be a complicated business
Once you’ve taken it out of the box and plugged it in, you'll be greeted with a small light that glows at the top of the speaker. Hold your iPhone near to the HomePod mini and you'll get a notification that asks if you'd like to connect – tapping this will activate the camera, which you can use to find the swirling light on top.
Once it’s been located, it's then a few simple taps to transfer key information to the device – things like the Wi-Fi network are crucial, as that's how the HomePod mini communicates with the world around it, and it's great to not have to dig out your Wi-Fi password again.
You'll also have your Apple ID synced across, as well as the choice of whether you want to enable it to just log information for you, or allow personalized info for other people in your (pre-defined) household.
All of this is handled through the Home app on your iPhone, and this is also where you'll be asked to assign your mini to a room (so you can say things like 'play music in the bedroom'), as well as pair it with another speaker if you've happened to buy an even number of HomePod minis – once again, these will be auto-detected by your iPhone, and you'll be presented with the pairing option.
Design of HomePod mini
HomePod mini looks identical to the standard HomePod, adopting the same mesh-covered "acoustically transparent fabric" design in white or space grey. Rather than a cylindrical body, HomePod mini has a more rounded, bulbous body with a display at the top that offers physical controls and a Siri waveform.
HomePod mini measures in at 3.3 inches tall and 3.9 inches wide, and it weighs 0.76 pounds, so it's small enough to fit just about anywhere. There's a silicone base at the bottom of the HomePod mini that keeps it in place, and Apple says that the HomePod mini won't leave white rings on furniture like the standard HomePod can do.
HomePod mini is powered by a non-detachable power cable that has a USB-C connector at the end, which is designed to work with an included 20W power adapter. Because the HomePod mini features a USB-C connector rather than a plug like the HomePod, it can potentially be powered by a battery pack, MacBook, or another accessory.
HomePod mini favors various touch gestures using the touch-based interface at the top of the device. A tap pauses or plays music, and a double-tap swaps to the next track. A triple tap goes back to the previous track, and touch and hold bring up Siri. Tapping and holding on the "+" button raises the volume, and tapping and holding on the "-" button lowers the volume.
HomePod audio performance
Apple plugged a lot of audio power into a small speaker. It's loud adequate to fill a room with sound. Bass, mids, and treble are all different and easy to detect. Compared to the latest Echo Dot and Nest Mini, the HomePod Mini is clearer and less distorted.
Comparing the sound between the HomePod Mini and other $100 smart speakers is a bit of an unfair fight. A bigger speaker like the Echo or Nest Audio will deliver a bigger sound. While the HomePod Mini is loud for its size, the comparison in audio is still much closer to the Nest Mini or Echo Dot. However, those speakers usually cost less than $50.
When it comes to pure volume, the Echo Dot is the loudest, but at full volume, it also generated enough distortion to distract from the listening experience. The Nest Mini isn't as loud, and it doesn't have the same distortion issues, but it lacks powerful bass.
Meanwhile, the HomePod Mini hits the sweet spot. It does a good job of balancing audio. You still get plenty of bass without sacrificing clarity.
If you're really into music, chances are you're not betting your listening experience on any of these pint-size speakers. You'd be right to move along. For your same $100, you'll get better sound from the Nest Audio and Echo. If you must have an Apple speaker and must have top-notch sound, it might be prudent to look for a deal on the $300 original HomePod.
Siri, HomeKit, and Intercom
For some people, the crucial reason to buy the new HomePod mini isn’t the audio quality, impressive as it is for the price, but the power to connect your smart home to the world with the least worry.
In that respect, HomePod mini is a useful tool. When it was announced alongside the iPhone 12, Apple went to great spans to talk about how Siri is such an intuitive assistant, one that could easily help you on your phone, in your car, and when you're roaming around your home.
Wake up in the morning and ask it to play the news, and it’ll give you an update on what’s been happening from a local radio station. Ask it to manipulate your smart lights or control smart plugs (as long as they’re connected to your home network) and it’ll immediately switch them on and off as requested.
There are some more beneficial features on hand, but it depends on how integrated you are with onboard Apple apps. You’ll need to be using the default calendar app to ask what appointments are coming up, and having Apple Maps set up to learn about the traffic on your commute.
Things like asking ‘Hey Siri, what’s my update today?’ will give you the weather, appointments, and the latest news as a short podcast, but we didn’t use this functionality all that much.
Many of these are things that you’d mostly do on your phone anyway, rather than have audio firing out of your speaker and possibly waking up others in the household if you like your updates first thing in the morning.
Interacting with Siri is pleasant enough, with the cadence of its voice improved to be more natural-sounding in recent months – this is something Google and Amazon are trying to do with their assistants too, and it makes a big difference.
One thing that still needs improving is Apple’s smart home integration. Getting devices to pair with your smart setup isn’t too hard (although there are a few steps to go through), but so often we were met with the equivalent of a virtual shrug when trying to turn our smart devices on and off.
The amount of times we heard ‘Hmmm, that device doesn’t seem to be accepting’ when asking Siri to turn off a set of lamps was upsetting, especially so when we asked again and eventually found that it managed to comply.
Perhaps it’s a congested Wi-Fi network or just Siri timing out, but it made us lose faith in the system and just resort to turning things on or off manually at times – the HomePod mini needs to be faster to act when it works, and more consistent in its functionality.
Also new with the HomePod mini is the Intercom feature, which enables you to tell Siri via your phone or HomePod to make announcements that are played on other HomePod speakers in your home.
It’s a little cumbersome to use, as we found ourselves constantly rehearsing our lines to make sure it worked correctly. ‘Hey Siri, announce in the living room I’m sorry for the noise, I just fell down the stairs’ was an awkward thing to say (for several reasons) but trying to remember how to phrase the announcement precisely took some getting used to.
This feature is going to be expanded in the months to come – you’ll be able to make announcements on all devices connected to a household, be it iPhone or AirPods, so you’ll be able to announce things to your family from afar and know that everyone heard.
If you're an Apple fan, you're going to love this $99 smart speaker. It's as inexpensive as Apple products will likely ever be. It sounds great, looks good, and provides the smart speaker functionality we've all come to expect thanks to its competitors. If you have an iPhone and an Apple TV, it's a no brainer to go the HomePod Mini route for setting up your smart home.
It isn't for everyone, though. If you're an Android phone user, the HomePod Mini won't invite you into HomeKit. That's OK because you have plenty of more affordable options to choose from. Spend the same $100 and get two (or even three if a sale is happening) Echo Dots or Nest Minis. Pair them in stereo sound, connect thousands of compatible devices to them, and enjoy. You could also splurge on the Nest Audio or Amazon Echo for bigger, better sound in one speaker.
If you're an iPhone user, but you don't have any other Apple devices, your soul-searching will be a bit more complicated. You'll need to consider what smart home devices you want in your home and whether or not Siri can support them. Google and Alexa smart home apps work well on iPhones, so you've got three capable suitors looking for the keys to your smart home.
The good news here is that there is finally an affordable Apple option for HomeKit and Siri lovers. The HomePod Mini is as on-par as Apple wants to make it with Google and Amazon's offerings, and I'd recommend it to anyone invested in the Apple universe.
Now it's time to compare Homepod mini from Homepod: which one is best?
Which Apple speaker should you buy? That likely depends on whether or not you're on a budget, as well as if you're focused more on great audio or smart home skills. While Apple is updating the HomePod to include many of the HomePod Mini's features, there are some key differences between the two models.
Apple HomePod, The HomePod wasn't the blow hit some thought it might be when Apple released it in 2018. Originally priced at $349, it was costly. Today, it's down to $299, but that's still a lot to pay for a smart speaker considering Echo Studio is currently $199. The Google Home Max also costs $299.
We were impressed with the HomePod's sound quality. It's such a large speaker at 6.8 inches tall and 5.5 pounds, there's plenty of room for its seven tweeters, six far-field microphones, and an excursion woofer with a bass-EQ microphone that evaluates the effect of a room on bass.
All that processing is powered by Apple's A8 processor. The HomePod's room-sensing tech turned out to be very good, and if you're fully committed to the Apple world you will be delighted with this speaker.
Siri can manipulate all your HomeKit devices, phone calls can be transferred to HomePod and it supports surround sound for AppleTV. Now that the HomePod Mini exists, you can also pair that speaker with a HomePod for stereo sound.
Apple HomePod Mini
After nearly two years of wondering whether Apple would deliver a smaller smart speaker, the HomePod Mini is here. At $99, it's about as affordable as Apple products get. That's the same price as the larger Amazon Echo and Nest Audio.
Just 3.3 inches tall, the HomePod Mini is closest in size to the Echo Dot or Nest Mini, both priced at $50. What do you get for twice the money? A Siri-powered smart home and Apple sound quality. Four microphones listen for your "Hey, Siri" and provide noise-canceling feedback. Like the HomePod, the HomePod Mini can be paired in stereo and used for sound with your AppleTV.
The HomePod Mini is powered by Apple's S5 processor, so you won't get the room-sensing tech of the HomePod in the Mini. The sound quality in the original HomePod was impressive, but the Mini's sound quality is more in line with its competitors' smaller offerings, the Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini.
The HomePod Mini includes Apple's U1 chip for Ultra-Wideband technology (see below). While Apple didn't have much to say about how that might improve the HomeKit experience, future updates will likely make use of the highly accurate device-tracking technology
Which one is best?
What makes this comparison interesting is that the HomePod and the HomePod Mini will function very similarly when it comes to smarts. Both speakers now include Apple's new Intercom feature, AirPlay 2 multiroom audio and more. The big difference is the HomePod Mini's U1 chip.
That U1 chip, also in iPhones 11 and newer as well as the Apple Watch Series 6, has UWB technology, which allows a device to find and track other equipped devices with radio waves more accurately than Bluetooth or even Wi-Fi.
Currently, Apple has only mentioned the use of U1 when it comes to the improved handoff experience on the HomePod Mini, but there's potentially a lot more there when it comes to communicating with other smart home devices. If you're hoping to build a Siri-enabled smart home, the HomePod Mini gets the leg up for that speculative reason.
The HomePod is aimed more at audiophiles willing to spend bigger bucks for better sound. Because it's going to get several of the latest updates that come out of the box with the HomePod Mini, like the Intercom feature and broader music streaming services, it still makes a capable smart speaker.
For most people, Apple's HomePod Mini will strike a balance between sound, smarts, and affordability.
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