(Pocket-lint) - Apple announced the HomePod mini during its Hi Speed event on 13 October, alongside the iPhone 12. The device is a smaller verison of the HomePod and it has a ball-like design with a mesh material and a LED touch surface on the top.
This is everything you need to know about the HomePod mini.
HomePod mini release date and price
- Pre-order 6 November
- Available 16 November
The Apple HomePod was released in early 2018 and costs quite a bit more than the Amazon Echo and Google Home alternatives it competes against. The HomePod mini is a lot more affordable, potentially a bigger rival to devices like the Echo.
The Apple HomePod mini will cost $99 in the US, or £99 in the UK, and it will be available to pre-order from 6 November. The on sale date will be available from 16 November.
HomePod mini design
- 3.3in tall
- Touch display on the top
- Grey or white mesh covering
The HomePod mini is a sphere, standing some 3.3-inches tall (83mm) and covered in an acoustic mesh. It resembles the HomePod, but at the same time bears a passing resemblance to the new Amazon Echo.
The top of the HomePod mini is flattened, with a display on the top that will respond to touch controls, as well as lighting up when you talk to Siri - just like the original HomePod did. It will come in two colours, space grey and white.
Inside the new HomePod mini there's a full range driver and a pair of passive radiators to the side. The driver fires downwards, with a dispersion cone designed to spread the sound through a full 360-degrees. That should give equal performance no matter where you place it and where you stand.
HomePod mini features
- U1 chip for handoff
- Auto stereo pairing
The HomePod mini has a number of features on board. It is able to recognise multiple voices, deliver personalised daily updates, and discover smart home accessories, thanks to the integration with the Apple Home app. It will be able to control other smart home devices you have setup within the Home app, so you can dim the lights, lock the doors or change the temperature, for example.
Siri drives the interaction, although you will be able to tap the HomePod mini to change the volume. Via Siri, you'll get full voice control, allowing requests for your music, from services like Apple Music, TuneIn and in the future, Amazon Music too.
Thanks to the U1 chip in your iPhone, the HomePod mini will know where you are and you'll be able to seamlessly transfer your music to your HomePod mini when you step through the door. The mini will also have other skills - when two are placed in the same room, they will automatically pair to form a stereo group to boost the music delivery. Of course, you'll be able to play across your HomePod devices throughout your house.
HomePod Mini is also designed to serve everyone in your household, recognising the voices of different individuals so it can serve up a personalised experience. There's also an Intercom function, which works in a similar fashion to Broadcast on the Amazon Echo, allowing you to talk between devices. As this is hooked into the Apple ecosystem, however, you'll be able to broadcast that to other Apple devices too - so you can't be ignored when you call people for dinner.
It will support all the smart speaker functions you'd expect, like music alarms, Find My to help locate your iPhone, Watch, iPad or Mac, and it will even play ambient sounds to help relax you.
Apple HomePod mini rumours
Here's everything we heard regarding a second-gen HomePod mini before it was officially announced.
13 October 2020: Here's the Apple HomePod mini set to debut at today's Apple Event
Serial leaker Evan Blass published a number of images of the rumoured HomePod Mini ahead of Apple's Hi Speed event.
6 October 2020: Apple announces next hardware event
Apple sent invites out to its next hardware event, which will take place on 13 October. The company is expected to announce the iPhone 12, alongside the AirTags, HomePod 2 and AirPods Studio headphones.
6 October 2020: Apple stops selling other rival audio gear ahead of HomePod, AirPods Studio launches
Apple is reported to have pulled rival audio products from its stores ahead of new launches from the company, including the reported HomePod 2.
15 September 2020: Apple holds Special Event but there was no HomePod 2
Apple held its Time Flies Special Event on 15 September but there was no mention of HomePod. Instead, the event focused on the new iPad Air and iPad 8th generation as well as the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, Fitness+ and Apple One subscription service.
2 September 2020 - Apple rumours again point to a smaller HomePod
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, both of which have a good track record when it comes to revealing Apple's secrets, claim that a smaller, cheaper HomePod is expected this September alongside the Apple AirPods Studio over-ear headphones.
24 June 2020: Apple's HomePod to get support for Spotify and other third-party services
Support for third-party music services like Spotify, Tidal and Deezer is coming to Apple's HomePod as we've suspected for a while, though there's no confirmation of which services will actually be supported. The announcement came in an Apple press release about various developer-orientated enhancements: "HomePod also has a new program to integrate third-party music services".
28 May 2020: Apple buys more companies to power up Siri
It's self-evident that Siri's capabilities have fallen behind Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa in its ability to adapt to natural language. Apple has bought several companies in the area of AI (artificial intelligence) in recent times and the latest firm, Inductiv, will enable Apple to better analyse data that comes in - presumably from user interactions - and so enhance the machine learning effort.
18 May 2020: HomePod drops to $200/£200 and availability is more scarce
The original HomePod sold out on the Apple Store on 14 May but became available again with a longer lead time. However, it appears stocks are now low and it's clear that HomePods are being sold off with a $200 price point at BestBuy and other stores.
19 February 2020: Support for Spotify and other music services?
It's rumoured that iOS 14 will usher in new capabilities for Apple devices to use non-standard apps as default options. And that will also mean more flexibility for the HomePod, too, with customers able to use Spotify or other music services on Apple's smart speaker - not just Apple Music.
Such new functionality would probably be launched alongside a new HomePod, but there's no reason why the older model couldn't be updated for this as well.
22 August 2019: Bloomberg report details cheaper HomePod features
A Bloomberg report, written by Mark Gurman, has detailed several features expected to come on Apple's unreleased devices, including a cheaper HomePod.
According to Gurman: "Apple is also working on a cheaper HomePod for as early as next year. The current $300 model hasn't sold very well. The new model is likely to have two tweeters (a type of loudspeaker), down from seven in the current HomePod."
8 February 2019: Could the next-gen Apple HomePod feature hand gestures and Face ID?
A granted patent application suggests the next-gen HomePod could have facial recognition and control via hand gestures.
As with all such patents that appear online after they lose confidential status, it was originally submitted a while ago - back in 2017 in this case. And while the HomePod isn't explicitly mentioned, it's pretty clear that that's what the patent is referring to.
21 May 2018: Apple's cheaper HomePod may carry Beats branding
A report from Apple's supply chain, via Chinese site Sina, has claimed a cheaper version of the HomePod speaker may carry Beats branding.
The report also said Apple is having talks with MediaTek about producing the new model, which would cost $199 when it goes on sale.
8 March 2018: A smaller, cheaper Apple HomePod could be on the way
The Taiwanese Economic Daily and Mac Okatara both claimed that Apple planned to launch a more affordable version of the Siri-enabled speaker in the second half of 2018 for between $150 - $200. Of course that never happened, but that's not to say it won't.