It’s high time to update the HomePod Mini – here are 5 things I want to see

HomePod Mini
(Image credit: Future)

Another WWDC has come and gone, and while it will have left many Apple devotees delighted with its array of announcements, big updates and promises for the future, there are many of us left wondering what might have been. After all, part of the fun of listening to a momentous keynote speech is complaining about all that was left out rather than praising those things we actually saw. 

We certainly wanted more audio news, and while the reveal of Apple Adaptive Audio will be good news for AirPods Pro 2 owners, WWDC 2023 was pretty thin on the ground when it came to news concerning headphones, sound quality and the HomePod smart speaker. 

That last one is a surprise, especially considering the fact that the original HomePod Mini is fast approaching its third birthday without any sign of an upgrade or a new model. The five-star HomePod Mini impressed us when we reviewed it a few years back and even snapped up a What Hi-Fi? Award; so isn't it high time we saw another model approaching on the horizon? 

If we do get a new Mini, we would certainly like to see a few tweaks and adjustments to make it an even better smart speaker than it is now. Here's our wishlist:

A newer, faster processor 

HomePod Mini

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The current HomePod Mini uses Apple's S5 chip that you will be familiar with if you own a Series 5 Apple Watch or an Apple Watch SE. That's all fine and decent and it has certainly served the current generation very well, but it's a step down from the S7 chip currently powering the larger HomePod 2. 

It's not rocket science to state that a new processing chip would lead to an enhanced experience, including better audio and a faster, smoother level of performance. A more advanced chip could also bring upgrades to Siri and make it much smarter.

It's unlikely Apple would fit the smaller, cheaper model with the same chip as its larger, higher-performance companion, however, so we may be being slightly hopeful when asking for a new Ultra Wideband chip in the second-gen model. 

Even better sound quality

Apple HomePod Mini

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

There's no question that musically the HomePod Mini is a really strong performer, comfortably giving you more detail, texture and loudness than you would probably expect from its petite size and price (£99 / $99 / AU$149). 

Still, there's always room for improvement, even for the best in class. That, after all, is what What Hi-Fi? is all about, so forgive us for being overly demanding. We have seen other brands evolve the audio performance to new heights (the Sonos Era 100 improving upon the Sonos One in every way, for instance), and Apple's more serious outlook on sound – as evidenced by an improved HomePod 2 performance – means that the HomePod Mini's performance could certainly see a step up.

The newer generation could offer even richer detail and delve into even finer textures, or else go louder without distortion creeping in and provide more fluid dynamic swings. Even if we are looking at incremental upgrades over a model that is already performing well above its pay grade, it would be time worth spent for Apple.

Maybe such improvements could be achieved by bolstering the new model's internal hardware. Both the Amazon Echo Dot 5th Gen and Sonos Era 100 smart speakers, for example, offer multiple drivers to beam sound out in a wider arc. The current HomePod Mini only offers a single, full-range driver that fires sound downwards and out of the 360-degree waveguide around the bottom. It's an arrangement that has worked well for its ultra-compact size, but it could look to its bigger brother HomePod 2 to see how it can implement (if possible) a multi-driver arrangement to push out a broader, fuller sound.

A better Home app 

Apple HomePod Home app playing

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

This, admittedly, isn't a problem with the HomePod Mini alone. All HomePods come equipped with the rather blandly named Home app, a rather sparse and boring platform for controlling your smart devices that, surprisingly for Apple, is a bit of a letdown.

Not only does it look cheaply made and feel badly laid out, but there's just not a huge amount of depth or intuitiveness within the app itself. There are only three tabs at the bottom dictating where to go (Home, Automation and Discover), there are hidden settings that aren't easy to find, and almost nothing about the experience is what you might term "user-friendly". Instead, everything feels disjointed and not where you would expect, as though nobody really thought to design it in an ergonomic or user-friendly way.

It's even worse when you compare the Home App with Sonos's far more intuitive and user-friendly app, or Amazon's excellent effort with the Alexa App. The latter is a more detailed, intuitive platform that provides five tabs at the bottom (including a useful "More" button"), not to mention shortcuts for most of your Amazon device's useful functions, such as finding devices, device settings, music settings and announcements. If Apple wants to keep up with Amazon and Sonos, it needs to redesign its Home App from the ground up.

Even smarter Siri

HomePod Mini Siri

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Siri is great, but we know that Apple's virtual AI assistant can be even better. This isn't pure speculation: the Californian tech giant recently confirmed at WWDC 2023 that improvements to Siri were incoming to almost all mainline devices, including iPads, iPhones and the Mac laptop series.

As Apple revealed, Siri's trigger phrase has been shortened from "Hey Siri" to simply "Siri". It also now has the ability for you to use back-to-back commands so that Siri can handle multiple tasks at once rather than having to be addressed, say, two times for two tasks. 

We can pretty reasonably speculate that such upgrades will make their way to Siri, but we would also like to see the usual raft of improvements integrated into a new HomePod Mini: faster response times, a greater array of responses and better third-party support. The best Siri experience is still tied into Apple's own apps and ecosystem, and while that works brilliantly for Apple Music subscribers, other music apps aren't as easy to use with Siri.

Voice-assistant compatibility is a big reason for choosing a smart speaker in the first place, so making Siri respond to our commands in a more intuitive manner across a wider range of tasks and apps would serve the hypothetical second-gen Mini very well, if and when it finally arrives. 

Small design tweaks

Apple HomePod Mini

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Let's be clear from the offset that the HomePod Mini looks great and performs fantastically in its current guise. It's a stylish little item, with that thick speaker mesh and perfectly spherical shape making it look the part alongside its great sound and great set of features. And it comes in multiple colourful finishes, too.

There are just a few design tweaks that Apple could do to make the next-generation Mini perform even better. For one thing, a grippier non-slip rubber sole at the bottom would provide a little more peace of mind. If there's a way Apple can make the Mini more stable without increasing the overall size, all the better.

Secondly, while the top panel touchscreen interface that activates when summoning Siri looks lovely, it's not always useful. For one, it requires you to be looking at the unit from above to confirm whether or not Siri has been activated. Apple increased the amount of illumination across the glossy top panel in the HomePod 2, so here's hoping that Mini gen 2 will get a more all-encompassing light system that can be seen from a distance.

Lastly, one feature that stood out with Amazon's Echo Dot (5th Gen) is that you can tap anywhere on its surface (in theory, at least) to get a response, so it may make sense for the Mini to become fully interactive no matter where your prodding fingers land.


Want something bigger? Our HomePod 2 review reveals a five-star performer 

Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: which is better?

Amazon Echo Dot (5th Generation) vs Apple HomePod Mini

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.