Apple launches HomePod mini, its smallest smart speaker
Almost buried amidst all the iPhone 12 announcements, Apple also announced a second model of HomePod, Apple's name for its smart speaker.
The HomePod mini brings, in addition to its diminutive size, quite a few new features. The original HomePod – it seems unchanged since it was launched in 2018 – is vaguely cylindrical and stands 172mm tall. The HomePod mini is only 84.3mm tall and vaguely spherical, with a flattened top and bottom. The original weighs a hefty 2.5kg; the mini is just 345 grams. It is finished in white or dark grey.
Here's where things get interesting. The HomePod mini gets by with just one full-range speaker driver (the big one has eight!), supplemented by two passive radiators. Apple says it delivers “amazing sound” by employing the Apple S5 chip “with advanced software to analyse the unique characteristics of the music and apply complex tuning models to optimise loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the driver and passive radiators in real time”.
The HomePod mini works with Apple's Siri smart system. It has three microphones listening for your voice, and one listening to whatever sounds the speaker itself is producing, so as to cancel it out to better hear you. You can play music just by asking for it. It works well with Apple Music and Apple Podcasts, of course, and natively with TuneIn and iHeartRadio. You can stream music to it from just about any music service using Apple AirPlay 2.
Of course, it supports multiroom operation and stereo pairing. Cool trick: you can “hand off” music to the HomePod Mini from your iPhone, just by bringing the phone close to the speaker.
Apple has introduced a new intercom system. You can talk via specific devices or broadcast to groups. And it even works with other Apple services, including CarPlay. Which means you can use the intercom from car to home.
The Apple HomePod mini will be available for delivery in Australia from the week of 16 November 2020 and will be priced at $149 RRP. It is compatible with the iPhone 6 and later, as well as all iPads released in recent years.
Stephen Dawson started writing full time about home entertainment technology just weeks before the DVD was launched in Australia. Since then he has written several thousand product reviews amounting to millions of words for newspapers and magazines around Australia.