Apple HomePod got bad reviews from critics, with some calling it ‘The Dumbest Smart Speaker’. However, Apple got close to flipping this view with its launch of Apple HomePod Mini. The device features a new Intercom ability and offers a better music listening experience compared to its predecessor. We got an intelligent assistant, lots of smart home capabilities, built-in privacy and security controls, and many more exciting features. The HomePod mini comes in different colors including black, white, grey and blue.
- 360 degree audio
- Noise cancellation
- Excellent bass
- Intercom service
- Siri – smart assistant
- Stereo pairing
The HomePod mini is just over 3.3 inches with a mesh fabric all the way around and a small plastic base at the bottom of the device, which prevents it from falling.
The Apple HomePod mini has a dissimilar look compared to the Apple HomePod. The HomePod mini is a small spherical ball with a flat plastic surface on the top providing a touch sensitive pad, which you can make use to invoke Siri, play or pause the music or adjust volume. The device has multicoloured LEDs under it that lights up and swirl around whenever Siri is listening or about to respond. The light glows white when the music is playing, green when you use your mini as a speakerphone for calls.
There is no physical switch to disable Siri. The device has an always listening feature which can be used to command siri to stop listening, or you can go through the HomePod settings in the Home app on IOS to toggle the feature.
Like the Apple HomePod, the mini is always attached to the power cord, and it comes with a 20 watt charging brick with six feet long cable connection and an USB-C port.
The HomePod mini has four microphones for picking up voice commands. These microphones do a brillient job of hearing voice commands even from a far distance across the room, even while something is playing.
The HomePod mini uses S5 chip processor which enables faster actions in the device. These actions also include adjusting the speaker’s output based on the music being played. Siri in HomePod mini is typically faster to respond than either Alexa or the Google assistant, whether that’s to play music, answer questions or control smart home devices. I would expect this from Apple since the company is known for its superior hardware.
Apple HomePod mini provides an extremely rich and acoustic sound experience, using computational audio delivery. The Apple chip S5 helps HomePod mini to achieve a bigger sound. S5 uses advanced software technology to analyze the rare charecteristics of music and apply complex tuning models that help in optimizing the loudness, adjusting the dynamic range, and controlling the movements of the drivers and passive radiators in real time.
This Apple is equipped with a full range driver which provides excellent audio frequency range as much as possible and is powered by a neodymium magnet along with the pair of force cancelling passive radiators which enables deep bass and crisp high frequencies. These acoustic sounds are used to deliver adorable noiseless sound signals. Apple designed an acoustic wave guide to direct the flow of sound down and out toward the bottom of the speaker for an immersive 360 degree audio experience. This feature allows users to place HomePod mini almost anywhere in the room and still can hear a consistent sound.
As the HomePod mini has 4 microphones, the three microphone array listens to Siri, and the fourth microphone helps to isolate sound coming from the speaker to improve the voice detection when the music is playing.
Also, two HomePod minis can be set up for a Stereo experience. This looks obvious but not many providers come up with stereo pairing. So it is not as obvious as it sounds.
Intelligent Assistant :
With the powerful intelligence of Siri, Apple HomePod mini delivers a personalized integrated experience for iPhone customers. HomePod mini acts as personalized assistance for up to 6 members. It can identify who is speaking and act according to their preferences. The device can respond to personal requests, like accessing messages, checking reminders and notes, going through calendar appointments, and making or answering phone calls. For example, when we say ‘hey siri, call my mom’, it recognises your voice and then navigates to your personalized contact list to pick your mom’s number.
Siri also offers users a personal update for a quick review of the day. With a single request, users can ask Siri ‘What’s my update?’ to hear the latest news, weather, traffic, reminders, and calendar appointments, and so on.
HomePod mini works effortlessly with Apple devices. For example, when listening to music on iPhone, users can simply bring their device close to HomePod mini and seamlessly hand off the music without missing a beat. This experience gets even better with visual, audible, and haptic effects when sound transfers from one device to the other. Personalized listening suggestions will also automatically appear on iPhone when it is next to HomePod mini.
A new Intercom feature offers a quick and easy way for family members to connect with each other at home. One person can send an Intercom message from one HomePod to another device in a different room or a specific zone or even multiple rooms throughout the home, and their voice will automatically play on the designated HomePod speaker. Intercom works with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods. That means everyone in the household can get Intercom notifications or send Intercom messages. This is a cool feature, especially for families with kids at home.
After your HomePod or device receives an Intercom message, you can reply back. If the message was shared with the whole Home, your reply is sent back to every HomePod and device in your Home with notifications turned on. If the message was sent to your specific room, your reply is sent only to the HomePod or device that sent the original message.
If you want your reply sent only to certain HomePod speakers, you can name them in your reply. Try something like “Hey Siri, reply to the living room ‘Which movie are you watching?'”
If you’re playing music on your iPhone, just hold your iPhone next to the HomePod mini. The HomePod recognizes the song and starts playing the same song on the HomePod mini. Apple HomePod mini is fast, and it is a delight.
You can also pick up whatever you’re listening to on the HomePod mini, and walk out with it on your iPhone. Again, it isn’t instant, and the speed does vary.
Handoff has been on the original HomePod for a while, but the HomePod mini includes Apple’s U1 Ultra Wideband processor which helps the handoff process. The support of the U1 chip will make the Handoff more seamless. It will propably track your equally U1 enabled iPhone with great precision, so it will be much more accurate when you try to use handoff.
You can also do beaming (Handoff here) using other compatible apps such as Pandora. Looks like Spotify would get this support too pretty soon.
Smart home controller:
The smart home capabilities of the HomePod mini remains unchanged from the HomePod. It can control smart home devices that are set up in the Home app on your iPhone and can be integrated for home automation. It can also act as your Home hub, which allows you to control your smart home devices with your iPhone from anywhere with your data connection.
The mini does support a new smart home protocol called thread, which allows devices to connect to it over longer distances and using less power than Wi-Fi or bluetooth. A handful of smart lights have been announced with support for thread in homeKit, but for now the thread ecosystem is quite small. Homekit itself does have a wide range of compatible smart home devices, including lights, contact sensors, cameras, thermostats, door locks, smart plugs, and more, all of which can be controlled by voice through the HomePod mini.
The more plugged in you are to the Apple devices, the better you would get from the Apple HomePod mini- be it broadcasting messages using Intercom, controlling other smart devices, or using Handoff from even applications outside of the Apple ecosystem such as Pandora. All these features make this an attractive addition to your smart home kit.
Is it worth buying?
If you don’t have an Apple smart system at your home, you probably have better options than Apple HomePod mini. We don’t think it is worth the price. I can get 3 Google Home minis for the same price and put them in 3 different rooms. Now, if you are looking for compatibility with devices other than Apple, I would buy Amazon’s Alexa dot for a similar price, and it has much better options in terms of compatibility with a wider range of products. So the only obvious place where Apple HomePod min wins is in Apple Ecosystem. Nothing can beat HomePod mini when your home is filled with other smart devices from Apple.