Anyone remember the original HomePod? No? It’s OK, because I don’t think Apple does either. Rather than releasing a next-generation version of its main smart speaker, the company’s moved on to a miniature edition instead.
Currently available for pre-order, the $99 HomePod Mini doesn’t come with any revolutionary features that differentiate it from the HomePod all that much. It’s simply just a more compact, cuter version of its older sibling complete with a new chipset and few different parts under the hood.
⚡ Mashable Score
But before I go on, let’s get one thing out of the way: Apple gave me less than a day to use this speaker, so my final verdict is very much subject to change.
From its great sound quality to its attractive design, I don’t have any complaints about the Mini so far. But regardless of the improvements made to Siri, I’ll still take Google Assistant over it any day.
As per usual, a full review is coming soon but for now, here are some of my first impressions of the new HomePod Mini.
1. Its orb-like design is aesthetically pleasing
When the HomePod Mini was first announced, someone on the internet compared its tiny spherical shape to a pear packaged in a shipping net and I couldn’t unsee it. But after feasting my eyes on the smart speaker in person, it’s actually super nice.
While I’ve never complained about the look of my Nest Mini, it doesn’t make as much of a statement as the HomePod Mini does. In fact, Google’s mini smart speaker looks really boring and dated in comparison.
I’m not the biggest fan of Siri (which I’ll get to later), but watching the glass top fill with animated swirls of purple, blue, and red, every time I trigger the voice assistant is mesmerizing. It’s enough to get me to say the words “Hey, Siri” for no reason whatsoever.
I know that it’s really not all that crazy of a feature, but it’s a nice added touch that differentiates it from the standard LED lights on other smart home speakers. It makes me feel like I’m staring into a crystal ball where I can see my entire future.
2. Don’t be fooled by its small stature, this speaker gets very loud
As someone who stands at 5 feet and 2 inches tall, people are shocked when I open my mouth to speak because my voice can truly carry throughout a room. And the same way others might feel about me is how I felt the minute the HomePod Mini started playing music — this little baby speaker gets very loud.
In addition to internal parts like a full-range driver and passive radiators, it utilizes Apple’s S5 chip for computational audio. Based on the song that’s playing, specific tuning algorithms are applied to adjust things like dynamic range and loudness.
I might not be an audiophile, but I can confirm the HomePod Mini delivers some super deep and rich sound. While I still need to put it to the test against other smart speakers, it sounds almost (if not equally) as powerful as the much larger Google Nest Audio. Of course, we’ll have to run it by an audio expert for a more in-depth opinion.
3. HomeKit is still playing catch up with accessories
Setting up smart home accessories with the HomePod Mini is super simple: all you need to do is scan the QR code on the box or the device and it’s automatically added to the Home app. From there, you can tinker with its settings, choose different ways to automate it, and more.
However, that’s if the specific smart home accessory is featured on Apple’s HomeKit approved list. While there are a ton of different compatible options, I managed to own one that doesn’t quite make the cut: a Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip. When paired with my Google Home, I usually have my TV, lamp, space heater, and AC unit plugged in. That way, I can control each of the devices through voice commands like, “Hey Google, turn my lamp on.”
With the HomePod Mini, however, I’m limited to using the separate Siri Shortcuts app. So, even though I can set up the shortcut to control brightness, and turn a device on or off, it’s not connected to the rest of my HomeKit ecosystem in the Home app. So, having to switch back and forth between two different apps is a bit annoying.
Regardless, if you’re looking into investing in a HomePod Mini after coming from either an Amazon Echo or Google Home, I’d make sure your existing smart home accessories are on that aforementioned list.
4. Siri is still…Siri
While I’ve used an iPhone as my primary device for about a decade now, I never use Siri. Compared to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, I’ve just always felt like Apple’s voice assistant lacked intelligence. Even to this day, it struggles to accurately recognize what I’m asking or saying, which is quite literally why my apartment is a Google Home-only environment.
With the HomePod Mini, I’m a prisoner to Siri and I hate it — particularly because it’s going to take a while to build up trust after constantly being let down. So far, the experience hasn’t been awful though. It quickly picks up on song requests, identifying my voice even if the music is super loud, and it’s really only struggled to provide me with the weather forecast once or twice.
But as a whole, Apple has yet to significantly improve Siri’s consistency in accuracy enough for me to want to use it as my default voice assistant. Again though, I’m still testing the Mini so perhaps I’ll change my mind as I spend more time with it.
5. It’s certainly a more approachable speaker
When the original HomePod first launched, it felt almost intimidating with its large build and expensive $350 price tag. But at the time, it was the only option for those who wanted to stay locked into Apple’s ecosystem. It was also the ideal choice for those more focused on audio quality than smart home features.
The HomePod Mini, on the other hand, isn’t as scary an investment. At just under $100, it offers all the same features as the standard HomePod but in a more compact form factor. That way, you can slowly build upon your smart home ecosystem by placing these in multiple rooms throughout your home. And, even though it’s small, it has super impressive sound quality.
As I said before, be sure to check back for my full review of the HomePod Mini soon. But for those of you who can’t hold off, I’ll say this: you can rest assured you won’t be making any sacrifices by opting for the less expensive HomePod Mini over the pricey original model.