Apple's HomePod Mini is finally here. It’s easy to forget that it's been six years since Amazon's first-gen Amazon Echo changed the realm of wireless speakers forever, but like it or not, speakers with integrated voice assistants have been speaking back to us for a while now.
Apple's original HomePod was a big deal for reasons beyond simple brand cache. We went to see how the HomePod was made and were amazed by Apple's dedication to sound quality. When we reviewed the HomePod, we declared it "the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy". So what of the new Mini model?
With big-hitters such as JBL, Sonos, Google and of course Amazon also vying for a bite of the smart speaker cherry (often with bijou, budget-friendly price tags) what does the new Apple Mini bring that others can't? Read on.
HomePod Mini release date:
We'll get straight to it: customers in the UK, US Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Spain can order HomePod Mini from 5am PST (8am ET, 1pm BST) on Friday, 6th November, with availability beginning the week of 16th November. HomePod Mini will be available in China, Mexico, and Taiwan later this year. So, there's not too long to wait following the new diminutive HomePod's 13th October unveiling.
Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of worldwide product marketing, called the HomePod Mini, “the ultimate smart speaker for anyone with an Apple device," adding, "It works effortlessly with iPhone to hand off music, answer calls, or deliver personalised listening suggestions, elevate the sound from Apple TV, play music from a Mac, and so much more. There’s a lot of Apple innovation packed into such a small speaker, all at an affordable price.”
HomePod Mini: price
Another quick answer: HomePod Mini will be available in white and space grey for £99/$99 – not bad at all, eh?
The original HomePod launched at £319/$349 (although it can now be snapped up for significantly less) so this relatively affordable and competitive price-point is welcome news – and Christmas is coming, of course.
If we'd expected the new HomePod to come in somewhere in-between the original model's RRP and the discounted price, we were mistaken. We probably have stiff competition from Amazon Echo (£90/$100) and Google Home (£89/$99) to thank for the competitive asking fee, but an Apple smart speaker for this money is a tantalising proposition indeed...
HomePod Mini design
At just 3.3 inches tall, the HomePod Mini is bijou indeed. Apple promises an incredibly rich and detailed acoustic experience, using 'computational audio' to deliver peak performance. To achieve a big sound from a compact design, the Apple S5 chip in HomePod mini works with advanced software which the Cupertino giant says will analyze the unique characteristics of the music and apply complex tuning models to optimize loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the driver and passive radiators in real time.
About that driver setup? It's essentially an Apple-engineered full-range driver, powered by a neodymium magnet and a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators, which boasts deep bass and crisp high frequencies.
HomePod mini also features an Apple-designed acoustic waveguide to direct the flow of sound down and out toward the bottom of the speaker, promising an immersive 360-degree audio experience. A three-microphone array listens for “Hey Siri,” and a fourth inward-facing microphone should help isolate sound coming from the speaker to improve voice detection when music is playing.
HomePod 2 features and specs
What of the Mini's new features? Well, as you'd expect, HomePod Mini is designed to work with Apple Music, podcasts, radio stations from iHeartRadio, radio.com, and TuneIn. In the coming months, Apple says it'll also work with popular music services including Pandora and Amazon Music too.
Multiple HomePod Mini speakers will be able to work together to stream music or podcasts to multiple rooms, and by placing two HomePod mini speakers in a single room, a stereo pair can be created for a wider soundstage.
Siri can now identify who is speaking and tailor music and podcasts to their preferences, respond to personal requests (like accessing messages, reminders, notes, and calendar appointments) or making and answering phone calls. Siri can also offer you a quick snapshot of your day. Ask Siri, “What’s my update?” for example, and you'll hear the latest news, weather, traffic, reminders, and appointments.
HomePod Mini, naturally, is designed to work effortlessly with Apple devices (it's compatible with iPhone SE, iPhone 6s or later, iPod touch 7th gen. running iOS 14; iPad Pro, iPad 5th gen. or later, iPad Air 2 or later, iPad mini 4 or later running iPadOS 14) making it easy to pick up an incoming call, listen to music on the Mac, or upgrade the TV experience by harnessing the sound from an Apple TV.
When listening to music on iPhone, you can simply bring your device close to HomePod mini and seamlessly hand off the music. And later this year, Apple promises to level up the experience with visual, audible, and haptic effects when sound transfers from one device to the other.
Personalised listening suggestions will also automatically appear on iPhone when it is next to HomePod Mini, and instant controls are available without having to unlock your iPhone.
HomePod vs HomePod Mini: which is better?
We haven't heard the mini – yet. What we do know now is that advancements – in both the smart speaker arena and in Apple's operating systems – have been made here. And of course the HomePod Mini will aim to at least equal the original for sound as well as improving upon its features and usability.
But let’s not forget that the original HomePod is still brilliant in its own right, particularly now it's been reduced in price. And that price may even fall a little lower now...