The Apple September launch event has been and gone, bringing with it a host of new products that will have Apple fans grasping for their wallets in anticipation of getting their hands on the finally unveiled iPhone 15, a new smartwatch or, if money allows, both at once.
I recently wrote about our desire to see more cheap products in the Apple lineup, including a potentially cheaper pair of wireless over-ear headphones to run alongside the excellent premium AirPods Max and more budget wireless earbuds such as the rumoured but still hypothetical AirPods Lite that would skimp a little on features while still providing solid sound and seamless iOS compatibility.
One of the products we were really keen to see unveiled was a sequel to the excellent, Award-winning Apple HomePod Mini. While its bigger brother, the more premium HomePod 2, launched earlier this year, there's been no news of a sequel to this very budget Mini speaker that's now three years old and counting.
The HomePod Mini was released in late 2020, and while some might have scoffed at the idea of Apple making a small-form alternative to the original HomePod smart speaker, the results were deeply impressive. Dinky, dashing and decidedly debonair, the stylish smart speaker won us around in no time with its surprisingly sophisticated, detailed and engaging sound for such a small design.
Like our desire to see a more budget model of AirPods (the Lite will arrive one day, surely), the HomePod Mini is an integral part of the Apple lineup, not only because of its quality but, more importantly, because of its price.
Launched at £99 / $99 / AU$149, the Mini remains one of the cheapest products that Apple has ever made, with much of its popularity owing to how affordable it is to a wider market. The number of features and quality you get from our 2022 Award winner is, quite frankly, remarkable.
To be blunt, we need products like the HomePod Mini to be part of Apple's plans, so we're disconcerted that a no-show could mean a lack of faith in this lower end of the market. The new Apple Watch Ultra 2, for instance, will set you back a whopping $799, whereas the much-anticipated iPhone 15 mirrors that weighty price tag, also clocking in at the £800 / $800 mark.
That's the value of the HomePod Mini, in that it shows that Apple can make cheaper products for a low cost to a wider market. With the economy the way it is, users are craving Apple products and compatibility without the need to shatter the family piggy bank in the process. The point of the HomePod Mini isn't just that it's a nice option to have; rather, it's a symbolic statement that Apple is committed to a different end of the cost spectrum. It shows that cheaper products can exist at the bottom of the price ladder, rather than everything shifting towards the middle and higher end of that particular spectrum.
If we get a cheaper HomePod model, and customers are receptive to it, it will pave the way for a similar price structure in other market areas, namely smartphones, tablets and, of course, wearable audio. That's better for the consumer, better for the market and, one would expect, better for Apple itself.
So here's hoping that, even if a release didn't arrive at this month's event and might not even drop before the year is out, we see a reasonably-priced sequel to the Apple HomePod Mini in the very near future. Now, more than ever, it feels like we need one.
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