It’s one of the cheapest devices Apple has ever put out: at $99 / £99 / AU$149, it’s almost affordable for most, although it’s going head to head with devices that can cost a fifth of that price at times, with the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini being seen as its chief rivals.
However, Apple believes that a combination of its Siri voice assistant and excellent sound quality will win the day – and there are a number of impressive things about this tiny speaker.
The first of these is the set-up process – you’ll need an iPhone or iPad to use the HomePod mini, and you can simply hold your device near the new HomePod mini and the connection is instant.
ll Wi-Fi passwords and accounts are synced, and if you’re setting up two speakers together they’ll automatically pair (after you’ve confirmed that’s what you want to do). It takes practically seconds to get up and running.
This a very inoffensive-looking speaker too, with a small spherical design that takes up far less space than the original HomePod.
The latticed fabric housing blends nicely into the background, and the top glows with a pleasing light – although we do wish there was an option to dim it or turn it off at night, for when you’re listening to calming music as you’re drifting off to sleep.
For us, the audio performance is the key reason to buy the HomePod mini. It’s excellent for a speaker that’s so small, and it really feels like the right mix of value for money and sound quality. The bass isn’t too heavy, vocals aren’t lost in the mix, and when you pair two minis, the stereo experience is really immersive.
However, if you don’t have an Apple Music account, you’re rather limited when it comes to music streaming. You can’t ask the HomePod mini to play anything through Spotify – that can only be enabled through AirPlay, and requires using your phone rather than the simpler method of asking Siri to play tunes with your voice. Essentially, you’ll need a subscription in order to make full use of your HomePod mini.
One of the biggest issues we encountered was when using the HomePod as a smart voice assistant. It works best if your family is set up with multiple Apple devices, but controlling your smart home devices with your voice is still hit and miss.
We experienced multiple occasions when lights would turn on and off on command, only for a lamp or plug socket to randomly stay on, requiring us to issue a second command in order to get it to switch off. If your voice commands don’t work flawlessly every time, using a smart speaker instantly becomes a frustrating experience.
However, if you like using Siri and you’ve got an Apple Music subscription, buying a couple of HomePod minis should be an easy choice. The sound quality is exceptional for the size, and the interconnection with Apple’s smart home is largely strong, in spite of some issues.
[Update: The Apple HomePod mini has finally gained support for handoff functionality, which allows you to seamlessly transfer music, podcasts, and calls between your phone and the compact smart speaker.
All you need to do is hold your iPhone near the HomePod mini, and as well as being able to transfer playback between the devices, you’ll also see personalized listening suggestions and playback controls automatically appear on your screen. You won’t even have to unlock your phone to adjust these settings.]
HomePod mini price and release date
- Released November 2020
- $99 / £99 / AU$149
The HomePod mini launched on November 16, 2020, and costs $99 / £99 / AU$149.
That’s far cheaper than the original Apple HomePod, which cost $349 / £319 / AU$499 when it launched in 2018.
That pricing also puts the HomePod mini in direct competition with the new Amazon Echo (2020), which costs $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$149 – and it also shares a fairly similar spherical design.
It’s not like Apple to price its products at the more affordable end of the spectrum, so perhaps the company is anticipating that people will buy more than one unit – as mentioned, you can pair two to get stereo sound.