Bottom line: Apple's iPhone 12 lineup is the star of the show thanks to an updated industrial design, 5G connectivity, and upgraded internals. However, the company is also expanding its ecosystem of accessories with a new HomePod mini that integrates the same features as its larger brother in a smaller design that's also a lot more affordable than the original.
Apple today introduced a new member to the HomePod family at its 'Hi, Speed' event. It's called the HomePod mini, and it's meant to be more competitive against Amazon's Echo family of smart speakers, which currently dominate the market thanks to their relatively low prices.
The original HomePod is pretty large at 6.8 inches tall, but the new device has a smaller profile with a height of just 3.3 inches. And while it's still covered in familiar-looking mesh fabric, it features a spherical design with a top cutout that exposes the same LED matrix found on the larger HomePod. It also comes in the same white and space gray colors and with a similar, non-removable power cord.
Powering the device is the same S5 chipset found in the Apple Watch SE and Series 5, which is less powerful than the HomePod's A8 SoC, but also more energy-efficient.
Apple says it's powerful enough to enable "computational audio," which is another way of saying it analyzes the music you play to improve the loudness and dynamic range of the sound output.
The company had to redesign the internal speaker configuration, which includes a full-range driver and two "passive radiators," along with a custom waveguide, to achieve a similar immersive 360-degree sound experience as the larger HomePod. If you want, you can now pair them into a stereo system, and they can also sync playback if you place them around the house.
Apple has also integrated the U1 ultra-wideband chip to allow users to hand off music from iPhone by placing it in close proximity to the HomePod mini.
For the smart home, the company has added a new "Intercom" feature so that you can send audio messages to family members through the HomePods in their rooms. And since the feature is powered by Siri, it also works with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and CarPlay.
Thanks to the U1 chip, you can also locate a misplaced Apple device. But more importantly, Apple is touting that interactions with your HomePod will be private. For instance, "Hey, Siri" requests will not be associated with your Apple ID, and no information is sold to advertisers or other organizations.
For those of you who have been waiting for integration with more music services, that's also coming later this year. Apple says it will allow you to play music from Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Amazon Music, but the company made no mention of Spotify during the announcement.
The HomePod mini will be available for pre-order on November 6 and will start shipping on November 16. Priced at $99, it's more expensive than Amazon's 4th generation Echo Dot ($59.99), but significantly more affordable than the $299 HomePod.