Apple is making another attempt at building a smart home speaker with the new HomePod mini, a smaller, more affordable version of its original HomePod.
The original HomePod was a product that was more about being a great speaker than a great one Clever Speaker. The HomePod mini takes the opposite approach: It’s not just another way to integrate Apple, Apple Music or Siri into your home. This allows Apple to expand its HomeKit ecosystem to a much wider audience than ever before.
Sure, the HomePod mini will likely sound great – since it’s a $ 99 speaker that competes against the new Nest Audio and fourth-generation Echo, it has to. It’s a nice benefit for Apple to have more options to pass its subscription services on to customers. The real potential, however, is to be the cheapest gateway for Apple’s smart home setup to date.
HomeKit isn’t a new part of Apple’s software setup – the company has been offering the smart home platform since 2014, and there is a wide list of products that work with it today (though it’s not quite as popular with device makers as it is Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant).
However, to get the most out of HomeKit, you don’t just need the right smart lightbulb or Wi-Fi thermostat. You also need a HomePod, Apple TV, or iPad to act as a “Home Hub”. A hub device significantly expands the possibilities of HomeKit. Here’s how you can control your smart home devices when they’re not directly connected to your Wi-Fi network, invite guests to use smart home accessories in your house, and most importantly, create automated routines.
At $ 99, the HomePod mini significantly lowered the barrier to entry to access these features that previously required an Apple TV 4K for $ 179, a HomePod for $ 299, or an iPad for $ 329 . Additionally, the addition of an always-on microphone that can respond to smart home requests makes using these HomeKit features more accessible for a third of the price of Apple’s previous option. For the price of a HomePod, you can cover most of your home with HomePod mini-speakers (Apple’s main new feature, Intercom, comes in handy for this scenario).
And there are many compelling reasons to use Apple’s smart home setup over Google or Amazon’s options. If you are already an Apple user, the HomeKit accessories can be integrated natively in iOS so that you can access your lighting or air conditioning directly from the iPhone’s Control Center menu, similar to turning the Wi-Fi on and off. Fi or bluetooth.
Device manufacturers are too required integrate their products into the home app. Whether you like it or hate it, the app serves as a consolidated place for all of your products and means you don’t have to deal with a third-party app, which means your hardware – at least in theory – could still work if that Company that makes it no longer supports its own app.
There’s also the security aspect: Apple is extremely strict when it comes to issuing its HomeKit seal of approval, even after removing the requirement for a physical hardware authenticator. Devices will continue to be scanned and will be required to go through a series of Apple-designed tests as part of the certification process before they can use HomeKit.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Apple is exempt from privacy concerns when it comes to its smart speakers. The company was found to have had issues with human contractors who only heard Siri recordings last year (alongside Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft). Since then, Apple has addressed these issues by introducing new, more secure policies and changing Siri’s default behavior to only save records unless a user specifically chooses to.
With HomeKit, another big chunk of your day-to-day technology gets integrated into the Apple ecosystem, which is a huge win for Apple. That’s because Apple relies on how well all of its products work together as the main selling point. For years, the company’s guiding principle has been, “The more Apple products you have, the better they all work.” And by bringing more users on board with HomeKit, Apple can extend that ecosystem to not just your computer, phone, or tablet, but your entire home. It’s arguably stickier than even your phone – once your entire home is assigned to a particular platform, moving to something else is both annoying, expensive, and time-consuming.
The HomePod mini isn’t as good a speaker as the HomePod. But it just might be the smart speaker Apple needs to turn HomeKit from a hobby into a hit.