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.
The HomePod still has the mesh grill exterior available in space gray or white, but it has an entirely different shape. It’s round, not a cylinder like the full-sized HomePod. It reminds us of the mesh-protected apples you might find at the supermarket. While we haven’t seen it in person, the screen at the top of the HomePod mini seems more prominent, even brighter.
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, though Apple promises that the listening experience hasn't diminished at all. 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.
Not longer after the Oct. 13 Apple event, the company announced that the HomePod will support Dolby Atmos if paired with an Apple TV. This does not work with the HomePod mini, since spatial awareness is not included in the device.
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, Apple Watch, and on CarPlay, and you can stream the audio. Howver, the Mac isn't mentioned in Apple's press release for the HomePod mini and Intercom.
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.
However, to use these features, you’ll need devices that are equipped with the U1, according to Apple's HomePod mini website. 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.
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 mini 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:
- Hong Kong
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
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.
Editor's note: Corrected the Intercom section, which listed the Mac as compatible with the new feture. Apple does not list Mac compatibility.