The HomePod Mini is actually Apple’s second attempt at a smart home speaker. Remember the HomePod? It sounded fantastic, but it was just too expensive to properly compete with offerings from Google and Amazon.
Now, Apple’s latest HomePod Mini is a more reasonable $99 and sounds fantastic for its size. Apple did a great job building in useful features that make this a compelling smart speaker if you use an iPhone.
Size and Sound
The HomePod Mini is small – it’s just over 3 inches tall. But fire it up and you’ll be amazed at how well it fills the room with sound. I’m not an audio expert but to my untrained ears the HomePod Mini sounds equally excellent at both loud and soft volumes.
I compared it side by side to the Google Nest Audio speaker with my family (and social media!) and many agreed that the Apple speaker sounded better. Of course, they both sound great, but my point is that you’ll be happy with the sound output of this little gadget.
Let’s face it, you’re buying this thing primarily to play music. It does that well, but mostly if you have a subscription to Apple Music. That unlocks the power of Siri and using your voice to call up everything from “that song that goes ‘try anything'” to favorite genres and personalized playlists.
There is also “native” support for Pandora, radio stations and podcasts. I say “native” because that means you can use Siri to call up these things without any special wording.
You are also free to “beam” audio from any app on your iPhone but it will be through AirPlay. So yea, Spotify works but you won’t be able to use your voice to get it.
I also love how you can group various speakers throughout your home for a Sonos-esque experience. It’s not as simple or thorough, but it works. Also, I found it really easy to ask Siri things like “play the music everywhere” or “move the music to the living room,” which so far has proven tricky on my Google Home speakers.
The other neat trick is that you can bring your iPhone near the HomePod Mini to transfer any music playing to the device. This is helpful for finding a playlist on an app, then putting that music on the HomePod instantly. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but when it does, it’s like magic.
Siri has definitely gotten better over the years. For real answers from the web, Google Assistant is still going to be better. But Siri can handle the basics, and more. On HomePod Mini, Siri can answer questions but also provide personal answers based on info from your iPhone.
The best part: you can actually send text messages through the HomePod Mini, something other smart speakers don’t do right now, as far as I know. Like Alexa and Google, HomePod Mini can also make and receive calls, as long as your iPhone is nearby.
I’m quite sold on the smart home aspects of the HomePod Mini. Up until Apple sent the review sample, I have never used my iPhone or HomeKit to control any smart home accessories. All of my smart home gadgets are controlled by Google Assistant.
Apple included a smart bulb called Nanoleaf Essentials. Setting up a HomeKit device is super simple. Controlling them is even easier. Like Google, you set up rooms in your home inside the app, then assign smart gadgets to a room.
Where Apple’s app shines is the ease of setting up automation and actually controlling the gadgets. For instance, lights that are on show up as lit up on the app and in Control Center. I’m not going to go on and on about this, but I think the smart home implementation through Apple is just much simpler than what I’ve seen on Amazon and Google’s offerings.
Let’s just say I’m tempted to swap out every accessory for HomeKit stuff. The main downside is that not as many products work with Apple as they do with Google or Alexa.
Apple touts security at every turn and the HomePod Mini is no different. Since Apple’s business doesn’t depend on harvesting all of your personal data and selling ads against it, you can rest assured your HomePod is keeping your queries more private than the competition.
It’s tough not to fall in love with the HomePod Mini. The price is right, the sound is great and the functionality is there. Apple has made a strong argument for making this device the foundation of a growing smart home ecosystem.
The trouble is that Apple products don’t play as well with others, so before taking the dive, be prepared to mostly use Apple products and services along with products that work with HomeKit.
If you’re an iPhone household that uses Apple Music, this shouldn’t be a problem. The HomePod Mini is a pleasure to use and at $99 this is a no-brainer gift for yourself or the Apple lover in your life his holiday season.
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