New $99 HomePod mini Unveiled With Spherical Design

BY Asif Shaik

Published 13 Oct 2020

Apple has expanded its smart speaker lineup and launched its second smart speaker today in the form of HomePod mini.

The first smart speaker from Apple, the HomePod, made its debut almost two years ago, in 2018. While this smart speaker received a lot of praise for its sound quality, HomePod didn’t gain any real traction in the market and one of the reasons behind its poor sales was is its hefty price tag of $349. The price of the HomePod has dropped to $299 in the recent months but even at its discounted price, it is much costlier than competing smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio, which retail around $99.

Well, Apple seems to have studied the market and decided to bring an affordable smart speaker to boost the sales of its smart speaker lineup. Today, Apple, at its ’Hi, Speed’ event, has launched a brand-new smart speaker dubbed the HomePod mini, alongside the iPhone 12. As the name suggests, the HomePod mini is an affordable version of the larger and costlier HomePod. It costs just $99, putting it in direct competition with smart speakers from Amazon and Google. So, let us have a look at what the HomePod mini has to offer.

Unlike the HomePod, which has seven tweeters and a 4-inch woofer, the HomePod mini features a single, down-firing woofer and passive radiators, which, according to Apple, offer 360-degree audio. So the HomePod mini is definitely a step down in terms of sound quality. But you should not forget that it is three times more affordable than the HomePod. On the brighter side, you can pair two HomePod minis for a stereo audio setup or multiple HomePod minis for multiroom audio.

Unlike the HomePod that has a cylindrical design, the HomePod mini features a spherical design. It has a touch panel on the top to control volume and media playback. Like the HomePod, the HomePod mini is covered in fabric. You get to choose from two colour options, Space Grey and White. As the HomePod mini has no tweeters and a smaller woofer compared to the HomePod, it is much smaller in size. For comparison, the HomePod mini is 3.3-inches in height compared to HomePod’s height of 6.8-inches. Plus, it has a much slimmer waistline but Apple is yet to reveal how wide is the new smart speaker.

Moving on to its smart features, the HomePod mini uses Apple’s Siri for voice commands. And the smart speaker has a 3-microphone array for voice command detection. According to Apple, the HomePod mini can recognise the voice of multiple people. The HomePod mini can also use these microphones to automatically calibrate the audio coming out of the speaker to suit your room’s acoustics. Apple calls this ‘Computational Audio.’

Under the hood, the HomePod mini has S5 processor, the same one that is used in the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Apple Watch SE. This processor uses 7nm nodes and has a dual-core CPU. Apple says that the new smart speaker has deep integration with the iPhone. The HomePod mini can offer personalized daily updates and smart home control. The HomePod mini supports Apple Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneInRadio with support for Amazon Music and Pandora coming soon.

On the connectivity front, the smart speaker has dual-band Wi-Fi ac with MIMO, Bluetooth v5.0, and support for AirPlay 2. Interestingly, the HomePod mini also comes with UWB (Ultra Wide-band) technology, the same as the new iPhones and Apple Watches. While the brand is yet to fully detail how it will use UWB technology, it is said to be used for communication between smart devices for seamless connectivity. UWB also provides much more accurate location tracking compared to Bluetooth. It means that HomePod mini will be able to accurately track the location of users in the house who have UWB equipped devices. Apple says HomePod mini is UWB hub for all its smart products.

It is worth mentioning that HomePod mini uses power from your wall socket, just like the HomePod. HomePod mini uses power-efficient components and software that can intelligently power them down during periods of inactivity. For example, through optimized power management features and a high-efficiency power supply, HomePod mini has been designed to be efficient in its low-power mode, where the majority of time is spent. The result is that HomePod mini is energy efficient right out of the box. HomePod mini consumes 75% less energy than the stringent requirements for ENERGY STAR.

The HomePod mini is available for pre-order starting 6th November and it will go on sale from 16th November.