Apple’s HomePod has stood alone as the sole smart speaker in the Cupertino company’s line for more than two years. So it’s no surprise that as smart speakers have grown in popularity that Apple would come up with a smaller and cheaper version in the form of the HomePod mini.
Revealed as part of the iPhone 12 announcement, the HomePod Mini is unsurprisingly a smaller and less expensive version of its larger sibling. But it’s more than just a pared down HomePod, with a few features of its own that could really appeal to Apple fans. Read on for a breakdown of how the HomePod mini measures up to the original HomePod.
HomePod mini vs HomePod: Price and availability
The HomePod mini also comes with a mini price tag, at least in comparison to the HomePod. At $99 it’s a third of the price of the $299 HomePod. That price puts the HomePod mini in the ballpark of Google’s new Nest Audio as well as the Amazon Echo Dot 2020 speaker, which happens to also have spherical design like the HomePod mini.
What’s interesting here is that a cheaper HomePod is another entry into what’s looking like a growing range of affordable yet capable Apple devices. After all, this year has seen the iPhone SE 2020 with its diminutive design but powerful A13 Bionic and the Apple Watch SE, which might not have the feature set of the Apple Watch 6, but is still a very capable smartwatch. Combined you could have a suite of Apple smart devices for less than an iPhone 12 Pro.
The Apple HomePod is currently available; the HomePod Mini will go on sale starting November 16.
HomePod mini vs HomePod: Design
At 3.3 inches tall, the HomePod mini is under half the size of the 6.8-inch tall HomePod. It’s also significantly smaller overall, likely making it a device that will sit nicely on a small desk, rather than need a sizable shelf like the HomePod.
And while the original HomePod looks a bit like the cross between a Sonos One speaker and the high-end trash can look of the old Mac Pro, the HomePod mini sports a design that’s more in line with Google and Amazon’s smart home products.
Looking a bit like a fabric-covered Magic 8 ball—and in some ways like an upside down Echo speaker—the HomePod mini has a rather neat and clean aesthetic.
The small touchscreen on the top of the HomePod mini and the design and color (white or Space Grey) of its fabric covering echoes some of the design cues of the original HomePod. But otherwise the two speakers look rather different.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so which speaker tickles your interior design glands will be a matter of personal taste.
HomePod mini vs HomePod: Sound
With only a single full-range driver and dual passive radiators, as well as two tweeters, the HomePod mini has less physical audio tech than the original HomePod, with its high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier and seven tweeters.
But for its size, the HomePod mini is still packed with enough power to fill a room with sound, according to Apple. And its design means it delivers 360-degree sound which could give it a bit of an edge over other small smart speakers such as the Sonos One.
We’ve not heard the HomePod mini in action so we don’t know how it measures up against the original HomePod, which delivers some fantastic high-fidelity sound for a smart speaker, even though it can sometimes be a little loud for a small room. If Apple manages to bring some of the audio strengths from the HomePod to the HomePod mini then we could be looking at a small smart speaker that punches well above its weight.
HomePod mini vs HomePod: Features
With its ability to configure its sound output to the room it’s in using its audio beamforming tech, the HomePod has a pretty neat feature to ensure you get the best sound out of it regardless of when you position it.
Given its size, the HomePod mini has no such beamforming tech. But it has Apple’s S5 chip that allows it to use computational audio to better balance sound output at different volumes. We’ll have to wait and see how well this works in practice.
Similarly, the original HomePod has a six-microphone array for picking up commands barked at Siri. Whereas the HomePod mini has four microphones, though we suspect that won’t make a huge difference in practice.
Both speakers support a range of streaming services from Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Prime Music and others. Spotify is still absent from the mix, which is disappointing. But on the software side, the HomePod and its mini sibling should be on par.
The HomePod is set to get Dolby Atmos support for use with Apple TV 4K, which gives the bugger speaker a new home cinema feature. But that's likely to appeal to a reasonably niche audience.
One feature the HomePod mini has over its older sibling is the ability to hand-off music playing on your iPhones to the HomePod without relying on Bluetooth pairing. It also works on reverse, meaning as you head out you can pass your iPhone by the HomePod mini and the audio playback will get picked up by the Apple phone. We can see this feature really appeal to iPhone users.
HomePod mini vs HomePod: Outlook
Without being able to compare the HomePod and HomePod mini side-by-side, we can’t tell if there’s going to be a huge gap in audio quality, at least on a room scale. But at $99 the HomePod mini feels more like a device that iPhone users will lap up as it doesn’t require the level of investment the larger HomePod does.
Audio enthusiasts might still prefer the original HomePod. But even then, the HomePod mini could be a second room Apple smart speaker. And with the handoff feature, we can see the HomePod mini fitting seamlessly into an Apple-centric smart home setup.
But given its neat design, price and what’s looking like fairly solid audio tech, we’re expecting the HomePod mini to be much more of a hit than the older Apple smart speaker.