HomePod mini: 6 things to know about Apple’s new smart speaker

The HomePod mini is a smaller version of the HomePod speaker. But does it all end there?

Credit: Apple

Apple on Tuesday added a new member to its smart speaker lineup. The HomePod mini is a smaller version of the HomePod speaker Apple released in 2018, and if it takes off, it will help Apple grab a bigger piece of the burgeoning smart speaker market.

Here are the top six things you need to know about the HomePod mini.

Size, speakers, and microphones

The HomePod mini measures 3.3 inches tall, less than half the height of the HomePod. And since it’s smaller, it has fewer speakers and microphones. The HomePod mini has a “full-range driver, powered by a neodymium magnet and a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators,” as well as three mics that listen for voice prompts, and an internal mic to help isolate the speaker’s sound to hear a “Hey Siri” command while playing music. Apple uses its S5 chip to process the sound.

homepod mini internal Apple

Like the HomePod, the HomePod mini plays 360-degree audio.

Intercom: Broadcast your announcements

A new Intercom feature allows you to say a message to the HomePod mini, and that message will be played on other connected HomePod minis, HomePods, and even AirPods. Intercom displays an alert on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and on CarPlay, and you can stream the audio.

apple homepod mini intercom Apple

An Intercom message is sent to other HomePod minis, as well as your devices.

Ultra-wideband support

The HomePod mini has Apple’s U1 chip, which provides the device with ultra-wideband, a radio communication technology that uses very little power, works in a short range, and has a high bandwidth.

The U1 allows for some cool iPhone tricks as well. You can “hand off” music playback from your iPhone to the new HomePod, as well as use an iPhone to control the music playing. You can also get personalized listening suggestions, and Apple says that later this year, you’ll get visual, audible, and haptic effects when transferring sound between devices.

apple homepod mini handoff Apple

With its U1 support, you can hand off audio from your iPhone to the HomePod mini.

It’s possible that in order to use these features, you’ll need devices that are equipped with the U1. That means you need an iPhone 11 or later. Older iPhones won’t be able to perform these features.

Supported music services

The HomePod mini works with Apple Music, the Apple Podcasts app, and radio stations from iHeartRadio, radio.com, and TuneIn. Apple said during the event that Pandora and Amazon Music support will be coming soon. Could that mean that other music services are coming, such as Spotify? We’ll have to wait and see.

Hey Siri

Like the full-sized HomePod, HomePod mini relies on Siri as its interface, using Siri commands to play music and podcasts. Siri can recognize who is speaking and make music suggestions based on the user’s preferences.

You can also use Siri for personal updates, such as asking about your schedule, the weather, traffic, and reminders. Any Siri Shortcuts made on your iPhone or iPad are also available.

Apple continues to protect your privacy while using Siri. Siri requests are sent to Apple’s servers only when Siri is activated, and those requests are not associated with your Apple ID. Apple also says it does not sell your personal information to third parties.

Price, availability, and device compatibility

The HomePod is $99 USD, and is available in space gray and white. Apple will start taking orders at 5 a.m. Pacific on November 6, with shipments starting on November 16, in the following countries: 

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Japan
  • Spain
  • U.K.
  • US

HomePod mini will be available in China, Mexico, and Taiwan later this year.

According to Apple, HomePod mini is compatible with the following devices:

  • iPhone 6s or later
  • iPhone SE
  • iPod touch (7th generation) running iOS 14
  • iPad Pro, iPad (5th generation or later)
  • iPad Air 2 or later
  • iPad mini 4 or later running iPadOS 14

It’s possible that features on the HomePod mini that rely on its U1 processor will not work on devices that are not equipped with a U1. You need an iPhone 11 or later.

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Roman Loyola

Roman Loyola

Macworld.com
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