The rumoured smaller, cheaper HomePod mini finally broke cover today as Apple announced it ahead of the new iPhone 12.
Rather than likening it to the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini, it’s more like the standard Echo, which costs $99.99 (£89.99 in the UK), and the Google Home, which, strangely, hasn’t been replaced since the original launched back in 2016.
The HomePod mini shares a similar spherical design to the new fourth-gen Echo and comes in white or space grey.
It’s mains powered just like its bigger brother, and has a similar touch-sensitive panel on top which lights up when you tap it or say the magic word ‘Siri’ to call up the digital assistant.
Apple says it still delivers ‘amazing sound’ despite the smaller dimensions – just 85mm tall - and that it will automatically adjust audio to optimise it for your room. It does this using Apple’s S5 chip rather than the A8 processor in the original 2017 HomePod.
Handily, you can buy two to form a stereo pair, as well as using multiple HomePod minis around your home to play music in sync.
Apple has added a new feature called Intercom which lets you send announcements to specific HomePods or all of them at the same time. This is clearly inspired by the same feature available on Amazon Echo speakers, but the company says it’s better because those messages can also be sent to your family’s iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and even AirPods and CarPlay in your car.
When is the HomePod mini release date?
You can pre-order a HomePod mini from Apple on 6 November, and they will start shipping on 16 November.
What can Siri do on the HomePod mini?
Well, it can recognise who is speaking, so asking 'What is my first appointment?' or 'Play my favourites mix' will give different results depending on who asks. Previously, only one Apple ID could be associated with a HomePod, meaning its use for families was limited to general questions and playing music.
Talking of music, obviously you can listen to Apple Music, but later this year you’ll also be able to hook up your Amazon Music and Pandora accounts.
Siri Shortcuts which you’ve made on your iPhone can be used via the HomePod mini, and you can also add items to your shopping list.
You can ask Siri to play ambient sounds such as rain or a crackling fireplace, and find your misplaced iPhone.
At launch Handoff will work (again, on supported iPhones and other devices) so you can answer an incoming phonecall, listen to music from your iPhone and also reroute sound from your Apple TV to the HomePod mini.
If you have a compatible iPhone, which is one with the U1 Ultra Wideband chip, you’ll get visual, audible and haptic feedback when Handoffs happen. We’re not quite sure what that entails as Apple didn’t go into much detail during the announcement.
It did say that this feature will be available later this year via a software update.
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