So what's new about it? And crucially, how does it compare to the original? Here we'll run down every detail we know of the new speaker, comparing it to the HomePod so you can see how the two stack up.
Ready? Then let's begin...
Apple HomePod vs HomePod mini: price
Costing £270 ($300), down from its launch price of £319 ($350), the original HomePod is one of the pricier smart speakers around. It's considerably more than even the more-premium-than-most Sonos One (although it does manage to justify its price tag).
The HomePod mini is a very different proposition, however, priced very competitively indeed. When it launches on 16th November, it will set you back just £99 ($99) – that's a lot more in line with the Amazon Echos and Google Homes of this world.
While the HomePods' rival smart speakers are regularly discounted and even bundled free with other products, don't expect the same of HomePod and HomePod mini. Apple gear rarely goes 'on sale' as such, and it'll almost certainly be some time before the mini gets a discount.
Apple HomePod vs HomePod mini: design
As the name implies, the main difference between the two devices is the size. Standing just under 8.5cm tall, HomePod mini is less than half the height of the standard HomePod. It very much shares its sibling's design DNA, but in the same breath it also looks quite different.
It is actually cylindrical, just like the HomePod, but because it's stumpier it looks like a ball with the top and bottom sections cut off. Dare we say, it looks rather like the Amazon Echo (4th Gen).
The HomePod's taller stature makes it look much more like a traditional smart speaker. Both share the same mesh fabric cover, same 'buttons on the top' controls, and same 'floating ball of light' animation when personal assistant Siri is summoned.
Apple HomePod vs HomePod mini: features
So what can HomePod mini do? Quite a lot, actually.
Naturally it can stream music, radio, podcasts and more from all the major services like Apple Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Amazon Music (though this last one is coming soon). Multiple HomePod minis can work together to create a multi-room system, or two in the same room can provide stereo sound. Siri comes on board for voice controls, giving you news, weather and appointment updates, and for controlling other smart home devices like lights and thermostats.
As with the HomePod, bringing your phone close to your HomePod mini can make it take over playing duties – handy when you come in after a hard day and want your tunes to fill your room, not just your ears. Later this year, Apple will add visual, audible and haptic (i.e. small vibrations) effects when sound transfers from one device to the other. Personalised listening suggestions will appear on your iPhone when it's near your HomePod mini, and controls will show up on screen without you having to unlock the handset.
Siri can also play you ambient sounds like rain or a fireplace to help you fall asleep, and can be set to stop playing after a certain amount of time, should you succeed in nodding off. Zzzzzz.
So far, so HomePod. But a new intercom system also lets you send voice messages to other HomePod speakers. That function works with other Apple devices too, like iPhones, iPads and Apple CarPlay, so you can send messages and respond to them wherever you are.
Presumably, though, this feature will come to the standard HomePod too.
The two HomePods are pretty identical in features – that's the beauty of a smart ecosystem, after all – but there'll no doubt be bigger discrepancies in the sound department.
Apple HomePod vs HomePod mini: sound quality
The HomePod mini is, at the time of writing, just hours old and not yet available. So we don't know how it sounds. We'd expect it to have a lot less oomph compared to the full-size HomePod, though, as is inevitable for a much smaller device. But Apple is promising "an audio experience unheard of at this size" – which is a considerable claim considering the decent quality of the smaller smart speaker competition.
HomePod mini uses something called computational audio. Apple claims its S5 chip analyses the music you play and applies audio processing to optimise loudness, adjust the dynamic range and control the movement of the driver and passive radiators in real time. This, Apple claims, allows it to deliver a big sound from such a small device.
The driver is powered by a neodymium magnet, complemented by a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators. It fires sound downwards and out from the base in an effort to disperse 360-degree sound, designed that way so you can put it almost anywhere in the room. That follows the same approach as the HomePod.
So, what about the standard HomePod? This we have tested, and we absolutely love its sound. In fact, we went so far as to call it "the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy." We stand by those words, too, even two years after we penned them.
It has an expressive bottom end which, while impressive, never threatens to overpower a track. If you were worried Apple might be going a bit too Beats-like in its approach, we're pleased to say your worries are unfounded.
Add to that an expertly judged treble and solid midrange, and you've got a superb smart speaker. If the HomePod mini sounds anywhere near as good as it, we're in for a treat.
Apple HomePod vs HomePod mini: verdict
Obviously it's too early to pass judgement on how the HomePod mini fares in terms of performance, but we can run the rule over how it looks on paper. And we're impressed – and hopeful.
It shares a lot of the HomePod DNA that made the full-size speaker such a success, and has a tweaked design to pique our interest.
We can't wait to get one in our testing labs for a full audition.
Read our full Apple HomePod review
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