HomePod mini: Big Audio Dynamite
Updated: Mar 4
HomePod mini offers a great music listening experience, an intelligent assistant, and smart home capabilities, with built-in privacy and security, in a beautiful compact design. mini packs a punch.
HomePod mini, the newest addition to the HomePod family, stands at 3.3 inches tall and offers impressive sound, with the intelligence of Siri, as well as smart home, and intercom capabilities.
HomePod mini is the ultimate smart speaker for anyone with an Apple device. It works effortlessly with iPhone to hand off music, answer calls, or deliver personalized listening suggestions. It elevates the sound from Apple TV, music from a Mac, and more.
S5 Sound System
Although I have not personally heard the HomePod mini. I have done some through investigation as to what hardware and software components make up this mini sound system and I think that reveals what you need to know before you make a decision.
Let's start at the top of this little bundle of joy, which it turns out is a lot smarter than other solutions.
At the very top of the speaker we have the Apple-designed S5 processor. This is the same System-in-Package (SiP) that is used in the Apple Watch Series 5, Apple Watch SE, and now the mini.
The Apple S5 adds a built-in magnetometer to the custom 64-bit dual-core processor and GPU of the S4 model. Magnetometers are a device that measures magnetism—the direction, strength, or relative change of a magnetic field at a particular location. Apple is utilizing this unique capability.
Apple says, HomePod mini works effortlessly with Apple devices. When listening to music on iPhone, customers can simply bring their device close to HomePod mini and seamlessly hand off the music without missing a beat.
The HomePod mini experience gets even better with visual, audible, and haptic effects when sound transfers from one device to the other. Personalized listening suggestions will also automatically appear on iPhone when it is next to HomePod mini, and instant controls are available without having to unlock iPhone.
This magical experience is due to magnetometers and iOS being installed on both S5 SiP on the mini, and the nearby iPhone. The mini also contains the U1 Ultrawide Band (UWB) chip found in more recent iPhone's. I've discussed this at length in a recent blog on Apple's Ambient payment system. In short the U1 chipset helps devices recognize one another, connect and interact quickly.
By now you are seeing that this is not just another little speaker with access to a smart assistant. The mini also uses this same S5 SiP to perform what Apple calls Computational audio. Apple's Manager of Acoustic Engineering, Dave Wilkes, Jr. described the process used to process audio ...
"Before you even hear the first note, HomePod mini is analyzing unique characteristics of the music to apply complex tuning models, optimize loudness, adjust dynamics and control the movement of the full-range driver, and passive radiators in real-time." And, he continues, "All this happens, at over 180 times a second. The result is an audio experience that is unheard of, in this size."
While we are talking about the drivers and radiators that make the music lets dive deeper ...
The mini is only 3.3 inches high, and 3.9 inches wide, it weighs less than a pound - 0.76 lb. So how can something this powerful pack a punch? The 360 degree audio is engineered and then output through an elegant design of elements, hidden behind mini's acoustically transparent fabric.
Mini Technology = Big Sound
Available in both white and space gray, HomePod mini, contain an Apple-designed full‑range driver that uses an incredibly powerful neodymium magnet to deliver deep bass, and crisp high frequencies. The unique acoustic waveguide directs sound out the bottom of the speaker, creating a 360‑degree audio field for consistent sound no matter where you are in the room. The waveguide is a cone, that points toward the center of the down-firing driver, dispersing sound outward in a 360 degree radius.
The tiny but powerful Apple S5 chip processes complex algorithms in real time, giving you balanced, fine‑tuned sound at any volume. HomePod mini continually listens to itself making adjustments to fit whatever environment it's placed in. A three-microphone array listens for “Hey Siri,” and a fourth inward-facing microphone helps isolate sound coming from the speaker to improve voice detection when music is playing.
On either side of the down-firing driver are two Apple-designed force‑cancelling passive radiators give HomePod mini incredible bass extension. These passive radiators amplify the bass pumping from the driver. Force-cancelling bass radiators were used in latest the 16" MacBook Pro model and sound is incredible. Audio component manufacturers like B & W have used passive radiators for more than a decade.
As you can see in the illustration above the mini's brains sit atop the speaker driver, radiators and waveguide system. Circuit boards, S5, processor and luminous control panel are all contained in a compact system at the top that seals in the sound, facilitating sound radiation around this sphere. No one in computer or smartphone industry is advancing consumers audio experience like Apple.
Siri + Sense
Siri recognizes you, him, her and them. Siri can recognize the voices of up to six different household members on HomePod mini — and create a personalized experience for each person. So it's Dad Rock your father will hear when he asks for something he’d like, and it's totally different from what the kids hear, when they ask Siri to play something.
With Personal Requests, Siri can recognize a particular voice and relay that person’s information from iPhone apps like Messages, Calendar, Reminders, and Contacts. So you can tell Siri to send a text and it sends it as you. When Dad texts his golf buddy, it goes out as him. It's all very seamless and fluid, with the magical effects that Apple is known for.
With the intelligence of Siri, HomePod mini delivers a personalized and deeply integrated experience for iPhone customers. Siri also offers users a personal update for a quick snapshot of their day. With a single request, users can ask Siri “What’s my update?” to hear the latest news, weather, traffic, reminders, and calendar appointments.
As the HomePod mini does not have a display, the experience is more interactive voice response than visual. But I imagine with the U1 UWB chip in both iPhone and HomePod mini that Siri will be able to send images and suggestions from the Internet. As Apple powers up its own search engine, Siri will get more, and more powerful.
Siri + Search
When Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg interviewed Steve Jobs in 2010 at D8, the subject of Siri came up. Walt directly asked Steve if Apple was getting into the search business. Steve told both the interviewers and the audience, in no uncertain terms, that Siri was a digital assistant not a search product. But integration between Apple's own search engine, and Siri could be powerful.
With Apple building out a search team under the leadership of a former head of Google search you have to understand, Apple is definitely going to go head-to-head with Google. If you have the latest iOS update and swipe down to search, right now today, the results will be from Apple's search engine - not Google's - who otherwise is the default search engine on Apple devices. There is a lot of money that exchanges hands in this relationship - but also a lot of data.
It was recently reported that there are approximately 1 Billion, with a B, iPhones currently in use around the world. 1/7 of the worlds population uses a iPhone. Now. think how many people around the world don't have a smartphone. The saturation is staggering when you think about it.
Siri + Intercom
I didn't mean to go off on a search rant there, but it's relative to the HomePod mini product. You'll probably have this little powerhouse around a while and it will improve as Siri and Apple Search improves. I think this is all going to happen very quickly. There are Applebots crawling the web as we speak. It's a thing - it's real ... Search just got real - private.
But let's get back to the HomePod mini features of today. Apple Intercom is a new system that integrates the HomePod mini right into the Apple ecosystem of products. As you see in the image above the mini will provide Intercom capabilities between AirPods, iPads, Apple Watch and iPhone. I imagine it will also work with MacBooks once Big Sur is released with Apple Silicon.
Using Intercom is easy as saying "Hey Siri, announce, On my way home, want me to pick anything up?" Apple says the new Intercom feature offers a quick and easy way for family or household members to connect with each other at home.
One person can send an Intercom message from one HomePod to another — whether in a different room, a specific zone, or multiple rooms throughout the home — and their voice will automatically play on the designated HomePod speaker. And of course, all other Apple devices can also send, and receive Intercom messages - it even works with CarPlay, for safe, hands-free messages.
This makes the HomePod mini a valuable home messaging hub, adding value that no other speaker can really match. No other smart home speaker has the integration and features that the mini provides. Time saving safety measures, and always connected hands-free with Siri.
Siri + Smart Home
With the features of Intercom, you might have guessed, HomePod mini is also your smart home hub. Apple says, the HomePod mini makes controlling smart home accessories easier than ever with simple voice commands for Siri to turn off the lights, change the temperature, lock the doors, or set a scene.
HomePod mini is the perfect hub, providing access to smart home accessories while at home or away. With the Home app smart home devices are easy to connect, and simple to control. Whether you already have a smart home or are buying your first smart device, getting set up — and staying connected from anywhere — is a snapwith the Home app and HomePod mini.
When you set up HomePod mini, it’s automagically added to the Home app, and with just your voice you can instantly control any of your HomeKit devices. According to Apple's website, with HomePod mini can control your HomeKit accessories remotely.Wherever you go, you can see a live view from front door, shut your garage, and lock or unlock the house through the Home app.
If you are Looking to learn more about the benefits of a smart home. The Discover tab in the Home app on your iPhone is the best place to find out what’s possible, get recommendations on top‑rated accessories that work with HomePod mini, and connect to the Apple Store app for additional details and effortless shopping. In other words, you'll find the right smart home devices that work.
mini HomePod = Big Privacy
HomePod mini is a smart speaker that protects your right to privacy. Apple clearly states privacy is essential — especially in your own home. HomePod mini is designed to keep your personal information safe, and will be a trusted assistant in your family’s everyday life.
Apple says HomePod mini only listens for “Hey Siri” — so you can speak freely knowing nothing you say is sent out of your home, until you activate Siri with a touch, or HomePod mini hears the magic words, “Hey Siri.”
When you ask Siri something, you're request is associated with a random identifier, not your Apple ID. HomePod mini works with your iPhone for requests like hearing your messages or notes, so they are completed on device without revealing that information to Apple.
With HomeKit Secure Video support, HomePod mini can analyze the feeds of your supported video cameras, detecting the presence of people and recognizing familiar faces, pets, and cars.
Apple says that all video processing is done right on device before it’s sent end‑to‑end encrypted to iCloud — your recordings can only be seen by you, and people you share them with, not Apple.
Rounding It Out
So you get a lot for the money, A private smart home hub, a home and mobile intercom system, a smart assistant and music, podcasts and audio recordings for days. There is a lot of other features packed in this little bundle of joy. For instance you can pair two HomePod mini's together for stereo sound, and you can connect both to your Apple TV as a sound bar replacement, or minimal setup.
My first thought when I saw them being paired was "can I pair two minis with a HomePod to act as kind of a subwoofer?" - like the popular Bose 321 home theater solution. "The short answer is no," explains The Loop's Jim Dalrymple. "You can't make a stereo pair of a HomePod and a HomePod mini.
However you can make a stereo pair of two HomePods or two HomePod minis, but you can't mix and match the two products." The mini and original HomePod don't pair together but can network.
HomePod + mini = More
That doesn't mean the two HomePods can't be used together. Mr. Dalrymple goes on to explain that if you have a HomePod and HomePod mini in your house, they may be used to play your music, or other audio in different rooms. The new Apple Intercom feature will also work on both devices.
There is an update in iOS 14.2 for the original HomePod that will add many features that are coming with the HomePod mini, including Intercom, personal update, Maps continuity, multiuser support for Podcasts, and support for third-party music services like Pandora and Amazon music.
Notably Spotify was not mentioned in the announcement, but I'm sure a deal may be pending ...
Another pro tip was dropped by this knowledgeable insider. There is an upcoming feature exclusive to the original HomePod will add "an immersive home theater experience when paired with an Apple TV 4K device." Wait, what? 🤯
To get the 5.1, and 7.1 surround, as well as Dolby Atmos, you need to pair one or two HomePod speakers to the Apple TV. This feature requires the spatial sound support of HomePod, so it isn’t available for the HomePod mini. This will allow your living room to have the same kind of spatial audio that you can experience today with AirPods Pro. I've covered it completely in another post.
So you may want to look out for sales on the original HomePod during Black Friday. Right now the original HomePod is reduced to $299. You can also finance on your Apple Card. If can get Dolby Atmos in your living room at a bargain price compared to Atmos systems currently on the market..
While we are talking about price, the HomePod mini is only $99. This isn't some tinny, little puck laying on your bedside table. This is an integrated environment of privacy, communication and personalization that can't be matched by any other smart speaker - You get a lot for the money.
As we head into the holiday gift giving season expect to HomePod mini everywhere. It's small size and big feature set makes it a great stocking stuffer or gift to yourself after all you've been through this year. Treat Yo Self - you deserve it. As I have compiled all the information, I have as always learned more about the HomePod mini as well as the original HomePod.
I may have to invest in a pair of HomePods for my Home Theater setup. This would replace my aging Denon home theater setup and be a simple, yet massive upgrade. I only use Apple TV to stream content so this may be an ideal situation. So I learned something today, I hope you did too. Thats what it's all about. I think it would be cool if it was portable, and charged on MagSafe disc.
“HomePod mini has everything customers want in a smart speaker — amazing sound for listening to music, a world-class intelligent assistant that delivers a personal experience to each member of the household, and like every Apple product, it’s designed with privacy and security in mind,” said Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.
“HomePod mini is the ultimate smart speaker for anyone with an Apple device. It works effortlessly with iPhone to hand off music, answer calls, or deliver personalized listening suggestions, elevates the sound from Apple TV, plays music from a Mac, and so much more. There’s a lot of Apple innovation packed into such a small speaker, all at an affordable price.”