My experience with the HomePod mini as a first time smart speaker user

HomePod mini on desk

I know, I'm really late to this, but I've finally caved in and bought a smart speaker. And it's a HomePod out of the myriad of other 'better' smart speakers?!

Why you may ask? Well, I recently got an Eufy Indoor Camera 2K (mouthful of a name I know, that camera has since been returned and replaced with an Aqara G2H), and without reading through HomeKit Secure Video properly, assumed it would work independently, and boy was I wrong. Turns out for HomeKit Secure Video support, you need to have a home hub sitting at, as its name suggests, home all day, connecting HomeKit devices together and allowing them to be used outside of your network. As of now, you've only got 2 options for home hubs, the HomePod mini or Apple TV. Since I don't have a personal TV where I am currently, I picked the HomePod, and after a few weeks of usage, I have some thoughts.

Unboxing it

HomePod mini box

In typical Apple fashion, getting the 'pod out of its packaging was a joy. The box matches the color of your speaker, mine being yellow.

Inside you'll find the HomePod with its 'permanently' attached power cable wrapped neatly beneath it. Also underneath are your paperwork and 20W power brick. Oh, and it does come with an Apple sticker to my surprise, though sadly the color doesn't match your device's.

Setting it up

Setup was really simple. Plugging in the HomePod mini instantly brought it to life. Once the initial boot has completed, a prompt appeared on my iPhone for setup. After a few taps, I was done and the HomePod was up and playing my Apple Music library.

This is something that's truly unrivaled among the smart speakers, others would have required me to download another app for setup. Not even Google Nest speakers support this seamless setup process on Android, which I find rather surprising as they have all the technology to power this as well (Fast Pair, Google Play Services, etc.)


HomePod mini colors

The HomePod has a design that is just nicely symmetrical, with different colors to match your environment. On top is the slightly transparent touch surface containing the controls, which light up differently depending on the activity at hand. The lightning reacts to ambient lighting conditions, lit up at the right brightness for the environment.

The rest of the HomePod is adorned in a acoustically transparent fabric in your chosen color. This material is stiffer than I expected, and shouldn't rip easily in normal use.

Finally, the attached power cable is braided, matching the HomePod color and terminates in a USB-C female connector, which is meant to be connected to the included 20W power adapter, or any compliant one of your choosing. I wish this cable was longer though, it would enable the HomePod to be placed in more positions.


Note: I'm not an audiophile, so take this section with a grain of salt.

Sound-wise, I like the HomePod's signature, after toggling the 'Reduce Bass' option in the HomePod's settings. It has the right balance of everything, and sounds way better than what you'd expect from such a small package. In terms of filling a bedroom with sound, I'm happy to report the mini doesn't have any trouble with that, unless you've got a massive space. It also does some adjustment (a.k.a computational audio) to suit its surroundings, though probably not as much as the larger HomePod.


Here is where the HomePods really shine compared to the competition. The HomePod mini is just the least creepy out of the smart speakers (if you don't count Sonos as one of them). Many commands are processed locally instead of being sent to the cloud, and if they are, speech data is anonymized instead of being linked to your Apple ID.

That being said, there is no hardware mute button, and Siri has accidentally triggered one or two times when I didn't ask for her, so that's a shortcoming that should be addressed in the next revision.


HomePod mini Siri

No HomePod (mini) review is complete without bemoaning about or complementing Siri. Yes, she still sucks at understanding some basic commands, performing web searches for easily computable/parsable information, etc., but I find that Siri is far better at one specific thing: 'strange' app names.

For example, I use a reminders app called TickTick. Siri would instantly understand my pronunciation of 'TickTick' with zero problems, and zero setup. Meanwhile, Google Assistant would constantly trip over and over again, correcting 'TickTick' to 'TikTok' or 'tictic'. Turns out you have to configure it through Google Assistant's apps website, but more on that in a bit.

Speaking of app integration, third-party apps mostly integrate smoothly with Siri thanks to Siri Intents/Shortcuts support. All you've gotta do is say the action name + app name as instructed by the app (e.g “Remind me to do ... in TickTick”) and the request will be fulfilled via your iPhone. On the one hand, this is more secure as you don't have to send another third-party (e.g Google, Amazon) your account's information, adding to the HomePod's privacy. On the other hand, these commands won't work without your iPhone on your local network, which is where the cloud solution of other brands has the advantage. I guess you win some, you lose some.

What I'm implying here is that while Siri is still quite the underperforming virtual assistant, I rather like it compared to the other two for what I use my HomePod for.

AirPlay shenanigans

AirPlay 2 with Overcast

AirPlay works fine most of the time, provided the app supports AirPlay 2 properly. Why the emphasis on properly you may ask? Well, some apps like a popular music streaming app with a green icon don't, and you're left with a frustrating ~2 seconds delay on whatever operation you're doing. Pause a track? Audio will keep playing for 2 seconds after you pause. Play a track? You won't hear anything until 2 seconds has passed. You get the idea.

Luckily, since AirPlay 2 has been out for a while, many other apps have taken the time to optimize their app and this is not a huge issue anymore, at least for me.

Some music/podcasts streaming services also support playback directly on the HomePod other than Apple's, enabling you to skip AirPlay's limitations, such as Deezer or TuneIn. Sadly there doesn't seem to be a way to set a separate podcasts service, which I'd like to see in a future update as not everyone listens to their podcasts and music in the same place.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, if you are invested in the Apple ecosystem and HomeKit, and is looking for a speaker option that doesn't break the bank while matching aesthetically with your working spaces. Siri may still be a downer when compared to the competition, but depending on what you actually demand from a virtual assistant, she might be just fine.

Addendum: This review was written a while before the release of the larger HomePod 2, and while I would love to try that one for the sound, I doubt I need the increased sonic performance given that I don't have a larger space to take advantage of it. I still adore my HomePod mini, and the rest of this review hasn't changed, except for the fact that the mini's dormant temperature and humidity sensor is finally unlocked and exposed to HomeKit, which I'm happy to report works very well and removes the need for an external one if you're not too touchy on accuracy.


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