I have two HomePods: one in our living room and one in my office. They sound great, and I’ve become addicted to the convenience of checking HomeKit devices, adding groceries to my shopping list, checking the weather, and being able to ask Siri to pick something to play when I can’t think of anything myself. . However, my office is not very large, and when rumors of a smaller HomePod appeared, I was curious to see what Apple planned.
Today, these plans were revealed during the event the company held remotely from the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino. Apple introduced the HomePod mini, a small $ 99 smart speaker that is only 3.3 inches high and 3.8 inches wide. By comparison, the original HomePod is 6.8 inches high and 5.6 inches wide. At just 0.76 pounds, the mini is also significantly lighter than the original 5.5-pound HomePod.
Despite its size, Apple has packed a lot of technology into the HomePod mini. The company used the term computing sound under the main key to describe the way the HomePod mini̵
Surprisingly, the brain that controls the entire process is an Apple-designed S5 SoC, the same chip that powers the Apple Watch Series 5. To maximize performance, the mini-software analyzes your music as it plays, adjusting the dynamic range and volume as it controls the speaker’s neodymium magnetically driven driver and power – dissipating passive radiators.
One difference between the HomePod mini and the original model is that the mini produces 360-degree sound directed downwards by an acoustic waveguide. The original HomePod uses a beam-forming technology to direct sound instead. The Mini also includes Apple’s U1 Ultra Wideband chip, and the original model does not, which means the mini will be able to handle proximity – related tasks that the original cannot.
The Mini also includes three microphones that listen for Siri commands, plus an inward-facing microphone to interrupt what it’s playing so that it does not mask your commands. Like the original HomePod, two minisets can be set up in a stereo pair. They also work with Apple TV and sync playback with other existing HomePods and HomePods mini throughout your home.
Interestingly, the HomePod mini’s technical specifications state that it also includes wired radios, which are used to network Internet-of-Things devices. The footnotes to the technical specifications say that the radios are not compatible with non-HomeKit wire devices, but I would not be surprised if they can one day be in light of Connected Home over the IP project among Apple, Google, Amazon and Zigbee Alliance that was announced late last year.
Along with the HomePod mini hardware, Apple announced some new and upcoming but previously announced features that they can take advantage of. As Apple noted at WWDC, Siri is now faster, more accurate and smarter, having gained 20 times more knowledge compared to three years ago.
Siri also gets the opportunity to respond to ‘What is my update?’ Siri will answer the question with a personal answer that includes information such as the weather, your commute time, upcoming reminders and events and news. The feature is designed to be individually tailored to each speaker in a household and changes based on the time of day to provide appropriate answers. Siri will send the instructions you request to the iPhone, so they are available in Maps when you also leave.
Later this year, Apple said it would add visual, audible and haptic feedback when using Handoff to transfer audio between an iPhone and HomePod. Third-party streaming services such as Pandora and Amazon Music also come in what Apple described at WWDC as an open source streaming music application. No mention was made at today’s event about whether Spotify plans to join the program.
As with the original model, the HomePod mini can also act as a HomeKit hub, allowing you to control individual HomeKit devices or set scenes. The Home app also gets an Intercom feature that allows you to communicate with others in your household using HomePods and HomePods minis. The feature also works with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods and CarPlay, but not Mac.
On devices such as iPhone and Watch, users must press a play button to hear messages so that intercom messages do not disturb them when they should not. On HomePods, however, the messages will play automatically. There will also be an availability setting that can be turned on to transcribe incoming intercom messages. Apple announced today that the Home app will have a new Discover tab that will recommend smart home products to users as well.
Of course, the most important question about the HomePod mini that can not be answered yet, if it sounds good. It remains to be seen, but I look forward to testing it and reporting back. I like the idea of accessing music, Siri and HomeKit devices in several parts of my home, and the price and size of the HomePod mini make it a good candidate for my office and other rooms in our home.