Apple's HomePod Mini is the long-awaited little sibling to 2018's overpriced (but great-sounding) HomePod. While the original HomePod didn't end up claiming much market share, it proved that Apple, even arriving late to the smart speaker party, could compete with industry leaders Google and Amazon.
The HomePod Mini is a much more reasonable $99, the same price as 2020's Echo and Nest Audio. Like its competitors, the HomePod Mini houses its company's voice assistant -- Siri, in Apple's case -- and connects to a slew of Apple-specific features, such as the messaging app on your iPhone or the Home app controlling your Wi-Fi-connected light bulbs. In addition, the HomePod Mini is able to adjust its audio output to the acoustics of the room (something Amazon has also claimed about the new Echo), and receive music "handed off" from iPhones held in its proximity. Plus multiple HomePod Minis are able to automatically play songs in stereo.
When it comes to voice assistance, Siri is less polished than Google Assistant and Alexa, but it can accomplish all the basics its competitors can. For many customers, the choice will come down to brand loyalty.
Apple's other big emphases with the HomePod Mini are security and privacy: Nothing you say will be shared without your consent; you can choose whether to send your recordings to Apple or not; your queries will not be associated with your Apple ID; and it won't respond to personal requests unless your phone is in the room. These features largely match what competitors are doing.
The HomePod Mini's clear downside is its price in relation to its size: the Mini's profile is more comparable to Google's Nest Mini and Amazon's Echo Dot, both of which cost only $50. In fact, at a tiny 3.3 inches tall, the HomePod Mini is even shorter than the new, 3.5-inch-tall spherical Echo Dot. When we tested the device, we did notice that its sound performance was more comparable to that of its competitors' smaller speakers, but it does a good job of balancing audio.