HomePod mini: Apple announces affordable smart speaker © Apple

HomePod mini: Apple announces new, tiny smart speaker

The £99 smart speaker has a new Intercom feature that allows users to send voice messages to Apple products around the home.

Apple had expanded its smart speaker range with a new, smaller version of its HomePod to take on the likes of Amazon and Google.

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The new HomePod mini will cost £99 and includes the same smart home voice control features as the full-size HomePod, carried out through the virtual assistant Siri.

However, Apple has attempted to make the mini a more agile speaker by making it smaller – it is just under 8.5cm tall – and through a new Intercom system which allows users to send voice messages from one HomePod to another around a home, as well as to other Apple devices such as the iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods.

A hand-off feature also enables iPhone users to bring their smartphone close to the HomePod to hand over audio playing on the phone to the speaker.

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Several mini units can also be paired together around the home and play audio in multiple rooms, while placing two HomePod mini speakers in the same room will create a stereo pairing.

Apple says that its HomePod minis are built using 99 per cent recycled rare earth elements, and the mesh fabric is made with 90 per cent recycled plastic.

Customers in the UK will be able to preorder the HomePod mini from 6 November, and the device will be on sale in the week beginning 16 November.

Top view of the HomePod mini showing its touch surface © Apple
The HomePod mini has a touch surface on top of the device to control the music © Apple

Last month, Amazon announced a new line-up of its own Echo range of smart speakers, including the flagship Echo, which is priced at £90 – making the HomePod mini a direct rival to the device.

Apple’s VP Product Marketing Bob Borchers said the HomePod mini had “everything customers want in a smart speaker”.

“HomePod mini is the ultimate smart speaker for anyone with an Apple device. It works effortlessly with iPhone to hand off music, answer calls, or deliver personalised listening suggestions, elevates the sound from Apple TV, plays music from a Mac, and so much more,” he said.

“There’s a lot of Apple innovation packed into such a small speaker, all at an affordable price.”

Industry expert Thomas Husson, principal analyst at Forrester’s, said he expects the mini to perform well.

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“Thanks to aggressive pricing and advanced integrated services with its Apple ecosystem such as the new Intercom service, the new HomePod mini is also likely to sell well in the coming months,” he said. “These keynote announcements demonstrate one more time that the total Apple experience is more than the sum of the device parts.”

Reader Q&A: Can smart speakers eavesdrop on our conversations?

Asked by: Alex Pereira (Age 12)

Smart speakers sit quietly in your room, listening to you all the time. They are waiting for key phrases such as ‘Hey Siri’, ‘Alexa’, or ‘OK Google’ Once they’ve heard them, they start recording your voice and upload it to the cloud for processing, so they can figure out what you said.

However, the only way a smart speaker can be used to continuously record conversations is for it to be hacked, to change its core software. Smart speakers are hardly unique in this sense – most of us walk around with internet-connected microphones as part of our smartphones, which can also be hacked.

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