The Apple HomePod has now been on sale for less than half a year and it hasn’t had the smoothest of journeys. While many people have praised it as a speaker, when it comes to its capabilities as a smart home hub there are those who question whether it’s worth its rather high price point.
With reports claiming that sales aren’t doing particularly well, what does the future look like for the HomePod? Well, it could be that it gets the ‘Honey I shrunk the kids’ treatment.
Although Apple is yet to confirm any kind of HomePod Mini, a cheaper and smaller speaker could be exactly what the HomePod brand needs to draw in those who have yet to be convinced. Not only that, it would allow Apple to follow a release path which Google and Amazon have successfully trod with their Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot devices.
Regardless of whether it’s in the works or not, this is exactly what we’d like to see from the HomePod Mini if it ever comes.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A smaller version of Apple’s HomePod speaker
- When is it out? Rumors suggest we could see it later this year
- What will it cost? No pricing just yet but it’s likely to be cheaper than the fully-fledged HomePod
Apple HomePod Mini release date
Considering the Apple HomePod Mini hasn’t actually been announced yet and there isn’t really any kind of historical pattern when it comes to previous releases for this this product, it’s hard to guess when we could see it released.
There have, however, been rumors this year that we could see the product released before the end of 2018 but we’re taking this information with a pinch of salt until Apple makes an official announcement. If any is going to be made, we expect it’d be during WWDC 2018.
Apple HomePod Mini news and rumors
There’s not exactly a glut of HomePod Mini rumors out there but there have been a couple of reports worth picking up on.
The most recent rumor around a new HomePod came from a Chinese tech firm called Sina and stated that there could be a cut-price HomePod with Beats branding in the works.
We haven’t seen a great deal of Beats branded releases since Apple purchased the company in 2014 so this could be a chance for Apple to revive the name while repositioning the reportedly floundering HomePod to a brand new, perhaps younger, audience.
According to the report, the new HomePod would cost around $199 (about £150, AU$260), which is in line with previous rumors and would go some way to combating criticisms of the speaker’s high price point. This is a report which should, however, be taken with a fistful of salt.
The first report
Back in March 2018, only a month after the HomePod’s release, there was a report from Economic Daily that Apple was planning to release a more affordable HomePod at some point in 2018.
It was rumored that this cheaper HomePod would launch in the US in the second half of 2018 for around $200 (around£145, AU$260), which is significantly lower than the device’s current $349/ £319/ AU $499 price point. In this report it wasn’t made clear how Apple was actually planning to lower the price of its speaker, but a brand new and smaller device could be a way to do this.
What we want to see from the Apple HomePod Mini
Sure, smart speakers are all about voice controls, and the fact that they’re standalone devices that don’t need to be hooked up to another audio source in order to playback tunes and podcasts. But, sometimes, a few added options are just convenient – especially if you’re trying to play back a track that, for whatever reason, can’t be found on the smart speaker’s streaming service of choice.
It may not be cutting edge in the smart speaker world, but there’s still the odd occasion when Bluetooth connectivity would be useful – and in the case of a HomePod Mini being tied to Apple Music, that’d be particularly useful for anyone looking to access, say, Spotify streaming. Which brings us onto our next point…
Open access to other music services
If you buy one of the current Apple HomePod speakers, you’re essentially locking yourself into Apple’s audio ecosystem. So, iTunes purchases aside, that’s $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$11.99 a month for a single Apple Music streaming account, or $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$17.99 for a family account.
That’s fine if you’re an iPhone-owning Cupertino disciple, and Apple Music is a fine service definitely worth investing in. But, if you’ve already committed to Spotify or Google Music or any of the other myriad smaller streaming options, that could be a frustrating restriction.
By knocking a few bricks out of its walled garden and letting other services have a look in could give an Apple HomePod Mini a userbase boost – and it could be paired with incentives to jump to Apple Music, if Apple played a savvy long-game.
More color options
The Apple HomePod is an attractive speaker, with its fabric mesh covering and cylindrical size subtle enough to fit among many decors. But that’s not always what you’re looking for – sometimes you want something that separates you from the pack, as evidenced by Apple’s Beats headphones.
They’ve built a brand around bold colorful designs, and if the rumors that the HomePod Mini is to feature Beats branding proves to be true, we’d like to see the speaker embrace Beats’ colorful aesthetic, too.
Better Siri performance
Apple’s HomePod does well on sound but when it comes to smarts it’s somewhat lacking. Compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, Siri is rather limited in what it can do for you as a smart home hub. This isn’t great considering it’s one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market and Siri is your main means of controlling it.
With that in mind, we’d love to see better Siri performance in a new HomePod iteration when it comes to performing commands quickly and accurately. There are rumors that Siri will be cut from the device entirely to save on cost but we’d rather see some improvements.