Apple announced the HomePod Mini during its October iPhone event, and it’ll be a smaller, cheaper version of the its full-sized HomePod speaker, bringing with a number of new smart features.
The leaks have been coming fast and furious and Apple has finally unveiled the HomePod Mini. Read on for more information about how it costs, when it goes on sale and what features it has.
When will the HomePod Mini be available?
The HomePod Mini will be available to pre-order on November 6th, with shipping starting on November 16th.
That pre-order date applies to customers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US. The HomePod mini will be available in China, Mexico, and Taiwan later in 2020.
Related: Best smart speakers
How much does the HomePod mini cost?
Previous rumours had pegged a price of around $150-$200, but just ahead of the event it was reported it could be lower than expect and Apple has now confirmed that it’ll cost $99/£99.
What does the HomePod mini look like?
Ahead of the event it was suggested that the HomePod 2 won’t be a full-sized replacement, and that has proven to be true with the HomePod mini announcement.
The speaker is said to measure around 3.3-inches tall, which is about half the original HomePod (6.8-inches). It’s spherical in shape, mimicking the design route that Amazon has gone down with its 4th Gen Echo speakers. Apple referred to its look as a compact, elegant design (it certainly looks that) and it comes wrapped in a seamless mesh fabric that’s designed not only to look good but aid its acoustic performance.
On top of the speaker is backlit touch surface with touch controls for volume and playback. It’ll also light up can just about see the volume controls at the top of the speaker. Otherwise the design language is similar to the original HomePod, with its mesh soft-touch finish that wraps around the speaker.
What features does the HomePod Mini have?
The HomePod mini uses the S5 processor, the same as the one featured in the Apple Watch Series 5. Although Apple didn’t mention it specifically, we presume that it’ll have the U1 chip to enable the Ultra Wide Band feature that Apple mentioned during its presentation.
Why is the UWB (Ultra Wide-Band) technology important to Apple? It allows for iOS products to talk to each other, enabling faster data transfer and more accurate location tracking. For example, if you lose the iPhone in the house somewhere, you could ask the HomePod mini to track it down for you. UWB technology also allows for hands-off between iOS devices, with one example being the mini knowing when an iPhone is nearby and a visual/audio/haptic effect occurring that gives the feeling of the two devices being physically connected.
Tucked inside the speaker three-microphone array listens for the “Hey Siri,” command and there’s a fourth inward-facing microphone that Apple says is there to isolate sound/reflections from within the confines of the speaker, improving the mini’s voice detection abilities when there’s music playing. If you have two minis close together in a room, they’ll sense each other and automatically convert into a stereo pair.
Apple looks to be opening the HomePod up to other music services slowly. Bloomberg did report that Apple is looking to add additional music services, and later this year Amazon Music and Pandora (available in the US) will also be integrated with the speaker.
We’ve commented several times that Siri has lost a bit of ground compared to its rivals. According to Apple she’s now been improved and is now capable of deep integration with iPhone. The HomePod mini can accept call, find your iPhone and you can ask her for updates to your schedule, the latest news or reminders.
Siri is also able to recognise the voice of each member of your household, and she works with Apple CarPlay, so if you make a suggestion about going somewhere to the speaker, it’ll pop up on the dashboard display of CarPlay when you get in a car.
The HomePod mini automatically integrates with the Home app for added smart homes features. These include Intercom, which allows users to send an audio message from mini to another. Intercom also works with other iOS devices, leaving notifications on the screen of an iPad or audio messages in a pair of headphones. It sounds rather cool.
To keep up with concerns about privacy, Apple says that requests made through Siri will not be collected. You can also choose to not keep messages stored as well.
Related: What is Apple Intercom?
How does the Apple HomePod mini sound?
The smaller size makes it more suitable for placing on a desktop (or indeed any other surface). Our concern was that a smaller speaker would result in a less spellbinding sound. As ever, we’ll have to wait and hear the speaker itself.
Apple, however are fairly confident, saying the HomePod mini is capable of delivering “an incredibly rich and detailed acoustic experience”, using computational audio to optimise the sound for the best performance. It does so with S5 chip in speaker working with “advanced software” that analyse the characteristics of the music to optimise loudness, adjust the dynamic range, as well as control the movement of the full-range drivers and passive radiators. It does this 180 times a second.
The HomePod mini also has an acoustic waveguide that directs the flow of sound out from the bottom of the speaker to produce a 360-degree audio experience. In theory, you should be able to hear a similar sound wherever you are in a room.
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