I wasn’t impressed at all, because I’m not a huge smart home fan: my Echo Clock with Dot has more clock than speaker. I rarely think it to ask questions, I have not yet adapted my brain in that direction. But as I watched the incident, Apple found a way to change my mind.
The $ 99 HomePod Mini, if you haven’t already heard, is probably Apple’s follow-up to the failed HomePod – a giant (great-sounding) speaker priced at $ 299. This price is so high compared to the market that Apple offers a monthly installment plan in addition to flatout purchases.
In addition, HomePod relies on Siri, which has long felt like a run-off compared to Alexa and Google Assistant. For example, Siri still does not allow for multiple timers at once, which still bugs many (myself included).
Where HomePod Mini Is Colder Than Any Echo
The HomePod Mini improves on the HomePod with one-to-one new features – which you might not find in any Amazon or Google smart speaker – called Music Unoff.
Here’s how it works. With the music handoff, you just walk up to the HomePod Mini when you’re listening to music or podcasts, and the HomePod Mini senses that your device is near, and you can simply transfer the music on your phone to its speaker.
Apple has cracked this trick thanks to its U1 chip, which uses ultra wideband technology to detect nearby devices.
Handoff sounds the way we develop previous Bluetooth
The handoff may not seem overwhelming for some, but is smarter than any connected, Alexa-enabled microwave if you ask me. This is because I have let loose Bluetooth technology forever. The process of starting, and then coupling, speakers, headphones and all other types of things always feels like there is too much friction.
This does not mean that I do not have Bluetooth devices that I use. I’ve got a UE Megaboom 3 and even stereo speakers for my record player support Bluetooth. Even when these applications try and bite on the steps to enable Bluetooth – the UE app allows you to turn on the speaker if you’re within range – it still sounds awful.
The music handoff of the HomePod Mini fixes all of that, and it looks like it will work just like the AirPods. You just go to the speaker, and it will transfer the sound.
A problem with the HomePod Mini Music Handoff
There is only one catch. Not all apps support HomePod Mini, meaning that you will only be able to send sounds to speakers from certain apps.
Most people will be annoyed by the lack of Spotify support, but at this point, I’m not surprised. I am more disappointed in the fact that while this feature will also support podcasts, only Apple’s podcast app seems to support it. No love for broadcasts, the best podcast app, bar none? I hope that is finally settled.
If our HomePod Mini review says that its sound is as good as Apple says, I might actually buy one. Heck, I could even see myself buying a pair, so I could also use them with stereo speakers for my Apple TV, because I haven’t invested in a soundbar yet. The best soundbar on its own has never really dampened my interest, but if I can use the HomePod Mini to cut down on fidgeting time with Bluetooth settings – and get better audio quality for TV shows Am?
Congratulations, Apple, you found a way to sell smart speakers that barely speak to Siri.