As Amazon and Google have steadily expanded and expanded their smart speaker lines in recent years, Apple is competing HomePod remained stagnant. The smart speaker was released almost two years ago and has shown little public love since, with the original $ 349 price cut to $ 299 and a typical street price now hovering around $ 199.
Apple has finally expanded its HomePod line. At the company’s “Hi, Speed” event, Apple led by $ 99 HomePod mini, which is really just a smaller, cheaper, HomePod.
The new speaker is only 8.3 centimeters high, compared to the original HomePods 6.8 inches. It is wrapped in a similar fabric in white or medium gray.
Unlike the cylindrical HomePod, the HomePod mini has more of a spherical shape, albeit with a flat top where you will find familiar touch controls and Siri waveform color animations. Coincidentally, Amazon also recently joined the fourth generation of entry level Echo speaker.
The HomePod mini has an S5 chip that uses “computational sound” to process sound 180 times per second. (Apple also uses S5 in Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE.)
The HomePod mini also benefits from a U1 chip that enables a short-range radio technology called Ultra Wideband. (HomePod lacks such a chip.) This seems to be the most important ingredient in adding haptic feedback to an iPhone when giving sound to or from a HomePod mini. The handoff feature is not new, but visual, audible and haptic effects during a handoff will be – provided this happens with a newer, U1-equipped iPhone, such as the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models. In addition, personal listening suggestions and user controls will appear on an iPhone when it is near a HomePod; this feature also requires U1 on both devices. Apple said that a future software update will enable these features.
The original HomePod retains some advantages over the HomePod mini. It’s probably better sound, based on the hardware specifications. Apple says the HomePod mini has a “full-range driver and dual passive radiators” while the HomePod packs a “high-excursion woofer and (a) row of seven tweets.”
HomePod also has a couple of features that HomePod mini lacks. These include “spatial awareness”, a feature that allows the HomePod to judge the characteristics of the room in relation to its position and adjust the sound accordingly. HomePod also has a “home theater with Apple TV 4K” feature. We’re not sure what it is, although it may be related to an upcoming feature in iOS 14.2 that allows you to set HomePod as a permanent speaker output for Apple TV.
Apple announced a new feature for both speakers and other Apple devices: Intercom. This feature, which mimics those offered by Amazon and Google speakers, allows users with multiple HomePod devices to communicate across a home – one speaker to one speaker or one speaker to several. (This is useful, for example, to announce that dinner will be served.) Intercom messages can also go to an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and even a CarPlay-equipped vehicle.
On the audio service front, and also not unique to the HomePod mini, Apple will soon provide support for additional third-party music services, including Pandora and Amazon Music – but, sharply, not Spotify, still. (Spotify and Apple are still has a bit of a kerfuffle.)
For some context, the HomePod line is still just audio, while Apple’s competitors have been offering “smart display” products that include screens and cameras for video conferencing for a while now. Siri is also a bit lame in many ways compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The HomePod line has tight Apple integration. For example, Siri works with HomeKit home automation devices. And with a more enticing $ 99 price tag, the HomePod mini is certainly a hit product with those who are fully invested in the Apple ecosystem, although smart speakers from other vendors cost less. We’re curious to see how the HomePod mini sound quality compares to the original HomePod, which is excellent.
You can pre-order the HomePod mini from 6 November 2020, with the product shipment from and including the week of 16 November 2020.