HomePod Mini: An orange-sized Apple that complements my audio diet
For a very long time, I didn’t really care about smart home appliances. After all, the technologies we depend on sometimes don’t work as expected. The more technologies a device packs, the more likely it’ll glitch or malfunction. Of course, there are reputable companies with solid appliances out there. Nonetheless, I had been sticking to old-school lightbulbs and speakers. Despite my enthusiasm towards Apple products, the Apple TV and HomePod are two device categories I had been ignoring.
HomePod Mini: How it emerged on my desk
HomeKit-enabled devices are hard to come by in Turkey — where I live. There are smart appliances with their own dedicated mobile apps and Google Assistant support. However, if I’m building a smart home, I’d personally want it to be wholly accessible from the Apple Home app. I don’t want to go through mazes to toggle a light switch. That would defeat the entire purpose of an intuitive, smart home.
I had been using a JBL Go 3 for my louder music-listening sessions for a year. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s compact, water-resistant, wireless, and rechargeable. I’d place it in the kitchen when I’m cooking, in the bathroom during my shower singing shows, and on my desk when I’m working. Its portability was ideal, but there were two main annoyances — it not being always on, and me needing to manually connect it to one of my devices every time I want to use it.
Lastly, I recently bought a HomeKit smart bulb. While my mighty iPad currently acts as a HomeKit bridge, it won’t when I make the upgrade to Matter in a few months. When Matter is widely adopted, the interconnected possibilities will be endless. So my bridge options from the company would be either an Apple TV or a HomePod. Considering I don’t use (or like) TVs at all, the HomePod Mini remained my only option.
Design: Mini is an understatement
No matter how many size comparison photos/videos you check before you buy it, the HomePod Mini is even smaller than you’d think. This thing is tiny — like, really tiny. It quite literally is the size of an orange. The best part, though? Size doesn’t actually matter here. It’s loud, clear, and a joy to look at. Obviously, I went for the Space Gray color option — subjectively, the only right shade. While it doesn’t pop out on my black desk, next to my other Space Gray and Midnight devices, it still has a prominent personality to it.
The HomePod Mini is wrapped in a mesh fabric that certainly makes it more human and less of a soulless device. On its top, there’s a touch screen that lights up when you trigger Siri or are playing audio through it. On its side, towards the very bottom, there’s a color-matched, irremovable braided power cord. That’s pretty much it.
Brain: Smarter than your iPhone
So, as you might’ve guessed — Siri powers the HomePod Mini. While it’s the same Siri that lives in your new iPhone or great Mac, it actually works better. For starters, it recognizes the Hey Siri hot word significantly faster. The touch display instantly lights up when you trigger it. That’s not to mention that it detects my voice and executes my commands accurately, even when I’m in another room. The microphone sensitivity is incredible. Before buying the HomePod, toggling my smart bulb would take around three seconds when using Siri on my iPhone. On the smart speaker, the wait time is virtually zero.
That’s not to mention that you get certain exclusives — such as individual voice recognition for those sharing it with others, and white noise support. The former lets you make personal requests — such as sending one of your contacts a message — without announcing who you are beforehand. HomePod’s Siri can distinguish between different people’s voices and personalize the experience accordingly. As for the latter, you can ask it to play:
- White Sounds
- Stream Sounds
- Rain Sounds
- Ocean Sounds
- Night Sounds
- Forest Sounds
- Fireplace Sounds
It will then play the respective sounds indefinitely. It’s a neat feature for those who can’t focus or sleep in a quiet environment.
Controls: HomePod Mini is the epitome of Apple’s tight ecosystem
Every year during WWDC, I wait for the Cupertino firm to announce Apple Music’s equivalent to Spotify Connect. How a company with an ecosystem as tight fails to deliver this basic continuity feature is beyond me. No, iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura still don’t support that. When streaming Apple Music on the HomePod, it’s a different story, though. You get to control the playback and queue from any of your compatible iCloud devices.
So I can start a music session though the speaker’s Siri, then skip through the queue on the iPad Lock Screen player. I can then change the volume using my iPhone’s Control Center. That’s not to mention being able to hand off a queue by bringing the iPhone close to the HomePod. It blows my mind how a relatively insignificant implementation can bring me this much joy. This only makes me want HomePod-independent Apple Music continuity even more.
If you’d rather not use other iDevices to control the HomePod, you still can use the touch screen and Siri for that. Tapping the screen once acts as a play/pause button (or volume control if you aim at the plus/minus buttons). Touching and holding the screen triggers Siri — if you’d rather not use the hot word. Tapping twice skips to the next track, and, similarly, tapping thrice skips back. Of course with Siri you get to do more, such as asking it to play a certain playlist, album, song, etc.
Sound: Not so Mini
I’m not an audiophile. There, I’ve said it. Despite that, I do listen to music for around five hours every day. What I personally appreciate in speakers is loud bass. The listening experience becomes more immersive when it’s prominent. The HomePod Mini meets and surpasses my expectations in this department. For a speaker this small, I still am surprised by how clear and loud it can get, too. What’s more mind-blowing, though, is that it still catches the Hey Siri hot word — even when you’re blasting deafening tracks. To avoid interrupting your listening session, it continues playing audio in the background gently, while you talk to the virtual assistant. The way its volume transitions is smooth and, consequently, satisfying.
The HomePod isn’t for every home
Apple’s HomePod Mini can be a perfect smart speaker for many users, including me. That’s because I meet very specific conditions, though. A significant portion of people might find it lacking or unsatisfactory. Those who use Apple products almost exclusively will love how seamlessly it works with all of their devices. You set it up once on a single device, and it becomes an available AirPlay output everywhere. It also supports lossless and Dolby Atmos playback, making it a decent smart Apple speaker at $99. That’s not to mention that it’s fully integrated into Notes, Reminders, Messages, etc.
For basic commands — like controlling music playback, setting timers, asking about the weather, etc. — Siri manages just fine. Google Assistant is objectively smarter than Apple’s assistant. However, the Cupertino overlord has been improving it with almost every major, annual OS release. In my case, I just need a speaker that is always on and ready. That’s in addition to an assistant to control my light’s color and brightness, plus potential smart appliances in the future. The HomePod Mini does that — making it one of the best recent additions to my room.
Do you depend on a HomePod? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.