Apple's HomePod Mini is Tiny, Loud, and Proud

Small, but mighty

Key Takeaways

  • The HomePod Mini is cuter than its predecessor and comes at a recession-friendly price of $99.
  • The mini sports an S5 chip, which Apple says allows for “computational audio” processing to adjust how music sounds 180 times per second.
  • A promised upgrade will allow the mini to use visual, audible, and haptic effects when sound transfers from one device to the other.
iPhone held next to white HomePod Mini
Apple

My original HomePod holds a special place in my heart, even though Siri is a fickle helper at best. On her bad days, Siri doesn’t respond at all on my HomePod and it feels like being ghosted on a blind date. But when she does hear me, the sound is incredible. In true Apple fashion, it seems like magic that a small-ish, alien-looking black pod can produce room-filling music that sounds as good as a decent Hi-Fi system.

The price tag for that wonderful sound, however, is steep at $299. That’s why I’m seriously looking forward to the HomePod mini, just announced at a much more recession-friendly price of $99. The mini, Apple claims, delivers “amazing” sound using technology like a new processor and “advanced” software.

It’s available in white and space gray, pre-orders begin on November 6, and it will start shipping the week of November 16.

Good Looks

The original HomePod looks ominous in a good way. It’s a black cylinder with theatrical glowing lights on top that resembles a device a villain in a bad action movie might use to trigger an explosion.

The mini also looks weird, but I admire its bulb shape with a honeycomb texture on the outside. The top also has lights, but this time they’re colorful and cheerful. It screams futuristic air freshener.

The design competition among smart speakers is getting fierce. Amazon’s Echo speakers started out looking as ugly as the typical tech gear you want to hide somewhere. But the new Echo (also $99) is rounder, stylish, and even comes in different colors.

The newer iteration of Google’s smart speaker, Google’s Nest Audio (again $99!), also comes in an array of soothing shades like pink and a bluish-green. Google’s speaker looks like a giant, fabric-colored lozenge.

I’m fully invested in the Apple ecosystem, having bought hundreds of dollars worth of music on iTunes, and I’m an Apple Music subscriber. That makes the HomePod an easy sell for me. Plus, the sound quality on the HomePod beats anything else I’ve heard in the price range. 

Superior Specs

On the inside, the mini sports an Apple S5 chip, which Apple says drives computational audio processing that adjusts how music sounds 180 times per second. Multiple mini speakers can play music in sync and “intelligently” create stereo pairing when placed in the same room.

The mini is designed to work with Apple Music, podcasts, radio stations from iHeartRadio, radio.com, TuneIn, and, in the coming months, other music services like Pandora and Amazon Music. However, it’s missing support for Spotify, one of the biggest players in the streaming music space.

The mini’s lower cost means it will be more affordable to create a smart network in your house; it can work as a central hub for any HomeKit devices. For example, I’m able to control my lights when I’m away from home with just a few words to Siri.

One of my favorite parts of the HomePod experience is the way it allows you to handle phone calls with an iPhone through the smart speaker. The sound quality is so clear that it makes going back to conversations on an actual phone feel like speaking through tin cans connected by string. 

Strength in Numbers

The mini promises to make the calling feature even more convenient as it will be economical enough to place several around the house, enabling you to walk around while talking (though, of course, that raises your total outlay). Apple claims the handoff process will be seamless.

White HomePod Mini set up on kitchen table with family nearby
Apple 

Even more exciting are some promised upcoming features that will allow the mini to use visual, audible, and haptic effects when sound transfers from one device to the other. In the upgrade, personalized listening suggestions will also automatically appear on an iPhone when it’s next to the mini, and instant controls will be available without having to unlock the iPhone.

It’s just too hard to resist the lure of the HomePod mini, but my collection of smart speakers is getting crowded, and trying to decide whether to chat with Alexa, Cortana, or Siri can be time-consuming.

But the sheer cuteness factor of the mini calls out to me, and I’ve got so much invested in Apple Music that there’s no way I’m not handing over my Benjamin.