It's been a busy few months for smart speakers - not only did the fourth generation Amazon Echo launching last month, but a brand new HomePod is also making a surprise appearance.
Apple's latest smart speaker was announced at the 'Hi, Speed' launch event, where most of the attention was drawn to the reveal of a little device called the iPhone 12.
However now the dust has settled on the iPhone pre-orders, Apple fans can now order a HomePod Mini to pair with their new device - and it might just give Echo and Alexa a serious run for their money.
What is the HomePod Mini release date?
The HomePod Mini will start shipping from 16th November here in the UK.
Just check the delivery date before you buy as the dates (as with most items in second lockdown) look like they've been pushed back into December.
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HomePod Mini price: How much does it cost?
The HomePod Mini has been confirmed to retail for £99 here in the UK.
This is significantly cheaper than the original HomePod, which originally cost £319 at launch. It's also a very similar price to other available smart speakers - the new Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers retail for £89.
Can I pre-order the HomePod Mini?
Pre-orders for the HomePod Mini went live on 6th November.
What is the HomePod Mini?
The HomePod Mini is a smaller, cheaper alternative to Apple's original HomePod. Think of it as the Apple version of the Echo Dot, which was one of our best Amazon Prime Day deals last year with 60 per cent off.
HomePod Mini uses the Siri virtual assistant - the same one found in iPhones and iPads - and has all the expected smart speaker features, such as the ability to play music, control other smart home devices, and set alarms, calendar reminders, and all sorts of useful tasks.
New features in the HomePod Mini include the Apple S5 chip (also seen in the Apple Watch SE) which Apple claims uses computational models to adjust how your music sounds 180 times per second - so it's pretty powerful.
HomePod Mini Design
The HomePod Mini design looks rather similar to the upcoming 4th gen Amazon Echo, also going for a rounded design with a mesh fabric finish. However, the HomePod Mini also has a small backlit display on the top that shows the Siri waveform and volume controls. It will be available in two colours: white and space grey.
It's also noticeably smaller than the original HomePod at only 8.4cm tall and 9.7cm wide, so should be able to fit into your home setup wherever you'd like.
HomePod Mini Features and Specs
The HomePod Mini will of course be able to perform all the usual smart speaker functions, such as streaming music, setting alarms and calendar reminders, and controlling smart home devices. However, the HomePod Mini will be compatible with a few more streaming services - as well as Apple Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn as before, the Mini will soon work with Amazon Music and Pandora too.
Apple's smart speaker will also be able to work with other HomePod Minis around the house, meaning you can play the same song everywhere with a single command - or even different songs in each room - and can send audio messages via Intercom. Alternatively, you can place two HomePod Minis in the same room to create a stereo pair, for fully immersive left and right channels.
Siri can now also recognise up to six different family members and can personalise responses accordingly, and can use voice recognition to read the correct person's iPhone notifications. Pretty neat, huh?
The HomePod Mini will also integrate seamlessly with your existing Apple products - you can answer calls from your iPhone, listen to music on your Mac, or stream your Apple TV audio all with Apple's smart speaker.
You don't even have to talk to transfer music playback to your mobile or vice versa - simply bring your iPhone close enough to the Mini and audio output will switch automatically. You'll also be able to receive personal listening suggestions on your iPhone this way - all without unlocking your phone.
HomePod v HomePod Mini: what should you buy?
Like most Apple products, the HomePods are on the pricier end of the smart speaker market, so with the HomePod still retailing for £279 it may come down to a simple matter of price. The HomePod Mini has pretty much all the features of the original HomePod but is nearly £200 cheaper - for the price of one HomePod you could get two or three HomePod Minis to cover your entire house.
However, if you're prioritising sound quality and are looking for a fully-fledged high-end speaker for regular use in a large space, then the original HomePod is clearly the option for you. The HomePod boasts seven tweeters, a high excursion subwoofer, a six microphone array and the ability to provide Dolby Atmos surround sound when paired with an Apple TV 4K. The HomePod Mini understandably lacks the same audio power, instead opting for a full-range driver with dual passive radiators and a three-microphone array.
Both are great smart speakers, but the right HomePod for you will depend on factors such as price and how exactly you plan to use the tech - the HomePod Mini would be better for occasional use of the smart features perhaps in the kitchen or hallway, whereas the HomePod would make an ideal household hi-fi for louder use in communal areas.
With the HomePod Mini yet to release don't expect any discounts just yet, but pre-order links are below. The HomePod, however, has already seen a reduction from the launch price of £319:
- Pre-order HomePod Mini - White | £99 at Very
- Pre-order HomePod Mini - Space Grey | £99 at Currys
- HomePod Space Grey|
£319£269 at AO
- HomePod White|
£319£279 at Argos