Apple HomePod Mini review: how does Apple's affordable smart speaker measure up?
We test the HomePod Mini to see if the budget speaker is worth locking in to Apple's world of smart home devices
Apple's remaining smart home base is impressive in its own ways but loses points for lack of versatility compared to other smart speakers. The multiple colors are a nice touch, and iPhone users will applaud its seamless set-up and function, but anyone else will either need to go all-Apple or look elsewhere.
Small and attractive, with various colors available
Works seamlessly with iOS
Good sound quality
Doesn't work with Android phones
Not compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant
The HomePod Mini began life as Apple's smaller, less expensive smart speaker but has since become its flagship smart home product since the original HomePod was discontinued. This is a lot of responsibility, competing with the much more expansive - and perhaps more well-known - product line-up of Amazon and Google.
The HomePod Mini is surprisingly affordable for an Apple product, but sadly no more versatile and cross-compatible than the company's other products. While among the best smart speakers, there is a small selection that support Siri, if you want full use of HomeKit, the Mini is your best option. You also might want to sign up for services like Apple Music.
But is the HomePod Mini any good? We tried out the speaker to see how it competes with offerings from other brands. As an iPhone user, we had the set-up for the Mini, so we expected a relatively smooth experience. Read on to see what we thought.
Apple HomePod Mini: Key info
- Multi-room audio: via AirPlay 2
- Works with: Apple HomeKit
- Colors: Orange, yellow, black, white, blue
- Dimensions: H3.3 x W3.9in
- Weight: 0.76lbs
- Update Jan 2023: Apple has now announced the release of an updated HomePod, and you can read about how the smart speaker differs from the HomePod mini in our comparison.
Caroline is the smart home editor for Livingetc, spending her time researching, testing and reviewing the very best tech has to offer for our homes. As a lifelong iPhone user, she was keen to take a look at the HomePod mini, which was kindly provided by Apple for testing purposes.
Apple HomePod Mini: Set-up
If you happen to have an iPhone, the set-up process for the HomePod Mini is simpler than simple. Just power on the speaker using the cable and plug provided and wave your phone close to it. You will be greeted by a setup message, and you just need to follow the instructions from there.
We were temporarily roadblocked by the fact we had not connected our iCloud account with HomeKit, but this was soon resolved. From there, the whole process took less than five minutes. Unfortunately, Android users won't be able to enjoy the HomePod mini, so make sure you have access to an iOS device before committing.
Apple HomePod Mini: Design
At first glance, the HomePod Mini has a similar aesthetic to other smart speakers from the likes of Google and especially Amazon. But, though it is spherical like the Echo and Echo Dot speakers, that's where the comparisons end.
The speaker is smaller and lighter than you might expect, fitting in the palm of your hand or, more likely, easily on a shelf or side table. The top of the speaker is a backlit touch surface that indicates when Siri is active and listening. The main body is covered in mesh material, and the speaker is available in five different colors.
Our unit for testing was dark blue, but you can also get it in yellow, orange, black, or white. It's nice to have options, rather than the colder white and black that sometimes makes Apple's products stand out in a warmer home environment.
Apple HomePod Mini: Performance
Despite its size, the HomePod Mini's audio power is really quite impressive. Apple attributes this success to the circular design and mesh material, as these design touches offer the opportunity for 360-degree output. The difference is palpable when compared to other smart speakers at the low end of the range, such as (but not restricted to) the Google Home Mini.
A decent level of bass and clear vocals all come through, and you'd be forgiven for looking around for a much larger speaker than the 3.3 x 3.9-inch device in front of you. We tested the speaker with both Apple Music and Spotify accounts. The former was linked automatically during setup, but for Spotify, you will have to use AirPlay 2.
This is easy enough to get around, but it does mean that you will need to use Apple Music if you want to be able to play tunes via voice command. You can also use the Music Handoff feature, which switches the song you're playing from your phone to the speaker and back again when the two devices get near each other.
Multi-room listening is possible with more than one HomePod Mini, and with a price tag of less than $100, Apple is probably hoping that you'll do just that. The in-built microphone performed well during our tests, picking up our voice even while the TV was playing in the same room.
You can use the multi-room feature for playing music across the home or as a fancy intercom to call the kids downstairs for dinner.
While we happened to have a few Siri-compatible smart devices at home, the options are, unfortunately, a little more limited for third-party security cameras, video doorbells, or other smart home devices. Keep this in mind to avoid purchasing a device that won't work with your new smart speaker.
For a lot more about the tips and tricks to use with the device, take a look at the 18 best Apple HomePod Mini tricks.
Apple HomePod Mini: Our verdict
The Apple HomePod Mini has its pros and cons, and we would only really recommend it to those who are already fully committed to the Apple ecosystem. Use of Apple Music, Apple Maps, and your iPhone's calendar are pretty much required for full use of the speaker - Google Calendar or Amazon Music users will find things a little (or a lot) more tricky. That said, this is still a great little smart speaker with audio quality that's a cut above other options, and it's an affordable way to get started with your smart home.
Caroline is the smart home ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.
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