Apple launches HomePod mini smart speaker with computational audio

Apple HomePod Mini speaker side view

If you’re the type that has a lot of Apple devices around the house, then the new Apple HomePod mini could be just the ticket.

Like the full sized HomePod before it, the new HomePod mini features similar audio technology but comes in a pint sized package measuring just 8.5 centimetres tall.

While small, it still manages to pack in a full range dynamic driver and custom acoustic waveguide to produce deep bass, crisp high frequencies and a 360 degree sound experience.

Sound all around

The acoustic waveguide directs the flow of sound out the the bottom of the speaker and helps create sound that emanates from all directions. This means that you can place the HomePod mini anywhere in your home and it will dynamically adjust the sound to work within the space. This could in a corner or placed wide open spaces, for example.

You can also scatter multiple HomePod minis around the house or use two minis at once in a stereo configuration. Multiroom audio is also supported so you can play the same track in all rooms in perfect synch or different songs on each speaker at the same time.

Computational groove

How does it sound? While we’re waiting to get a review unit, we can tell you that this little speaker is all about producing a big noise. This is helped by something called ‘computational audio’, where the embedded Apple S5 processor works with advanced software to analyse the characteristics of the audio stream. It then applies complex tuning models to optimise loudness, adjust the dynamic range and control the movement of the drivers and passive radiators in real time. It doesn’t matter if you’re listeing to high quality music, podcasts or Apple’s music library, all audio goes through the same treatment to produce the best result.

Speaker smarts

Great sound is just part of the whole experience. The HomePod mini is also a very powerful intelligent assistant, assuming you want to use Apple’s Siri. She can now identify who’s speaking and serve up personalised responses such as accessing messages, reminders, calendar appointments and notes as well as making and answering phone calls. There is also a new ‘What’s my update’ request that will deliver personalised news, weather, traffic reminders and calendar appointments, depending on who’s asking.

Using the new U1 Ultra Wideband chip that’s also found in The iPhone 11 and new 12 models, the HomePod mini can detect your phone and trigger haptic effects and on-screen visuals. For example, as you move closer to the HomePod, you’ll feel a tapping effect on your iPhone that increases in intensity the closer you get. Personalised listening suggestions will also automatically appear on iPhones when next to the HomePod. Gimmick? Maybe, although it could add a fun new dimension to your experience.

Like the full sized HomePod before it, you can also control compatible smart devices around the home with your voice. This includes smart lights, power switches, televisions and even 3rd party speakers. Just connect them via Apple’s Home app. 

Built-in intercom

There is also a new ‘intercom’ feature that allows you to link your HomePod mini(s) and other Apple devices into a household-wide intercom system. It can also send messages to iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, Macs and even Apple CarPlay in your car.  Oh, and it will tap into your AirPod earbuds too. And it works in reverse too so you don’t even need to be at home to send an intercom message from, say, your Apple Watch.

The good news is that the intercom does have some limits, as you don’t always want to have a verbal message play out loud on your iPhone when you’re not in the house. For non-speaker recipients, a voice recording appears as a notification, so you can decide to listen at the right moment.

Surround sounds good (updated)

An exciting feature is that you’ll be able to use the HomePod mini to enhance the sound of your Apple TV. This can work with just one speaker or a stereo pair. However, only the full-sized HomePod can deliver 7.1, 5.1 and Dolby Atmos surround sound via the 4K Apple TV. This is because the HomePod Mini lacks spatial awareness and beam forming technology of its larger brother. 

Privacy matters

In terms of protecting your privacy, only after the ‘Hey Siri’ command is recognised will any information be sent to Apple’s servers. Your requests are not associated with your Apple ID, and personal information is not sold to advertisers or data harvesting organisations. You can also opt out of having your voice clips recorded and retained.

HomePod mini pricing and availability

The homepod mini is available in white and space grey colours, similar to that of the original HomePod, with an RRP of $149. You can order it starting on the 7th of November with in-store availability beginning the week of 16 November. Pick one up at an Apple store, online or through Apple’s authorised resellers. 

For more information on Apple’s latest iPhone announcements, click here. To view the HomePod mini product page on Apple’s site, click here.