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Apple HomePod Mini
What we like
What we don't like
Apple HomePod Mini
Smart home technology is everywhere now, but if you’re looking for some yourself, it can be daunting to figure out what’s the simplest first step. Luckily, Apple users have the Apple HomePod Mini as an easy-to-use option. This smart speaker fits well into any Apple user’s home, thanks to its sleek design and compatibility with Apple devices.
It’s not without its drawbacks, however, so it’s important to consider your own needs before you invest in them for your home. Is it right for you? Let’s find out.
Who is the Apple HomePod Mini for?
- Anyone in the Apple ecosystem should consider this smart speaker. It requires an iOS or iPadOS device to operate and immediately connects to your Apple devices.
- Smart home enthusiasts can use the HomePod Mini to control their Apple HomeKit accessories.
- Siri fans will appreciate the HomePod Mini’s four-microphone array that registers a “Hey Siri” even when the speaker is blasting music.
What’s the Apple HomePod Mini like?
The HomePod Mini is the, well, mini version of the original Apple HomePod. This smart speaker carries out voice commands through the Siri smart assistant. Siri can answer questions, set reminders, send messages, and read the news. It can also control your smart home and execute commands, like controlling your home’s thermostat.
The HomePod Mini is also a speaker, and can stream music or other audio from your iPhone or directly from services like Apple Music. If you have multiple HomePod devices, you can pair them together for stereo playback or multi-room audio. Once you have a HomePod ecosystem in your home, you can use the speakers to send intercom messages to other rooms.
Check out: The best smart home devices
The HomePod Mini is about the size of a softball, coated in mesh fabric on the sides. It’s pretty easy to knock over, but the construction is solid and can handle a drop. The white fabric stains easily, but there’s a grey color variant if that’s a concern.
The speaker isn’t IP certified, but it can withstand a relative humidity of 5% to 90% non-condensing. But this isn’t supposed to be a portable or outdoor speaker, so that’s not a huge issue. It uses a USB-C cable and wall adapter to plug into your wall.
How does the Apple HomePod Mini connect to your devices?
The Apple HomePod Mini operates wirelessly over 802.11n Wi-Fi, so your phone or laptop needs to be on the same network. With Apple devices using the same iCloud account, you can use peer-to-peer AirPlay, even if your internet is offline.
To set up the HomePod Mini, plug it into the wall, and the touchpad will light up and the speaker will make a startup sound. When you unlock your iPhone near the speaker, a card will pop up on the screen to take you through the setup process.
The HomePod Mini can use peer-to-peer AirPlay, even if your internet is offline.
You can’t connect your iPhone to the HomePod Mini through Bluetooth, but it does use Bluetooth 5.0 for AirPlay and Handoff. While playing music from your phone, you can hold it close to the HomePod Mini to transfer output devices, so the audio will play through the speaker instead of your phone. This could be annoying if your phone is just close enough for your HomePod Mini to recognize it, but far enough that a connection can’t occur. Your phone will vibrate and notify you to move it closer.
How do you control the Apple HomePod Mini?
You can control the HomePod Mini with your voice, as well as with the touchpad on the speaker. Double-tapping the center skips to the next song, triple-tapping goes to the last track, touching and holding activates Siri, and tapping or holding the plus or minus symbols adjusts volume. You can also say “Hey Siri” and then whatever command you want to control the speaker.
The HomePod Mini can save up to six people’s voices and have a unique profile for each. As an example, asking Siri to play music or to message your mother will get you different results depending on the person. Siri can effectively differentiate between different voices, which is really convenient.
In the Home app, you can customize the HomePod experience for each profile, such as setting a password requirement for certain people, or only allowing certain people to control audio.
How do you play music with the Apple HomePod Mini?
To stream music to the HomePod Mini, you need a subscription to a music service like Apple Music or Spotify. You can also play FM radio through the HomePod Mini. Certain services like Apple Music and Apple Podcasts are directly integrated into the HomePod Mini.
To stream audio from Spotify, go to the “Devices” page on Spotify and select the HomePod Mini. The connection between the iPhone and HomePod is stable generally, but there can be some skips and hiccups along the way. During testing, there was a point when the speaker stopped streaming through Spotify and tried to switch to Apple Music.
How does the Apple HomePod Mini sound?
The Apple HomePod Mini is an omnidirectional speaker, and the sound is good from all angles. It contains a full-range driver and dual passive bass radiators, and gets sufficiently loud to fill a room.
Higher frequencies are amplified a bit, but don’t come through as loudly as bass notes. Many audio products do this because most consumers prefer a bit more bass. Nevertheless, all instruments come through clearly on this speaker and sound great.
Does the Apple HomePod Mini collect your personal data?
A lot of the hesitation around buying a smart speaker stems from a fear of them harvesting your personal data, as so much technology does these days. Apple assures users that the HomePod Mini only listens after hearing the wake phrase, but you can disable Siri by saying “Hey Siri, stop listening.” You can re-activate Siri, and also disable the HomePod’s location services in the Home app. Verbal requests are associated with a random identifier rather than your Apple ID when they’re sent to Apple to be processed, so they can’t store that information about you. When you ask Siri to read messages or notes aloud, the HomePod Mini doesn’t send that information to Apple. However, unlike many smart speakers, the HomePod Mini doesn’t have a microphone mute button.
Apple HomePod Mini review: The verdict
The Apple HomePod Mini is a very good entry-level speaker, and anyone who uses an iPhone or iPad will have no issues setting up and controlling it. Third-party streaming applications aren’t totally streamlined with it, but this isn’t surprising given Apple makes its hardware primarily products for use with its own software products. People fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem are the ones who should really get this speaker as it delivers good sound in a pleasing small form factor.
What are the best Apple HomePod Mini alternatives?
If you’re bothered by the HomePod Mini’s lack of a mute button, the Amazon Echo (4th gen) ($99) uses the Alexa assistant and is pretty similar to the HomePod Mini. It has a microphone mute button on the top of the speaker, and an LED light on the bottom of the speaker glows red when it’s muted. The speaker is larger than the HomePod Mini and has two tweets and one woofer, so it’s a little louder. It’s more compatible with Amazon products like Fire Stick and Amazon Music than Apple ones, however.
Same thing goes for the Google Nest Audio ($99). If you want direct YouTube Music integration or access to Chromecast support, you should consider the Google speaker. The Nest Audio also has a microphone mute button and the speaker verbally confirms that it’s muted when you press it. There are some special features too, like Ambient IQ, which automatically adjusts the volume of your audio depending on environmental noise.
All three speakers cost the same and have really similar functions, the biggest difference being their respective smart assistants, and this will likely be the determining factor when purchasing a smart speaker.
Read next: Echo Dot vs Nest Mini vs HomePod Mini