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Latest Leak Suggests Apple's Got a HomePod Mini In Store—But Is That Enough?

An image of the Apple HomePod with the Siri logo lit up.
Photo: Adam Clark Estes/Gizmodo

Now that Apple has finally set a date for its iPhone 12 event, new info is coming about other products Apple might release with one leak suggesting that instead of a HomePod 2, Apple will release a cheaper HomePod Mini.

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In a short but direct post on Twitter, L0vetodream—who has a pretty solid track record regarding previous Apple leaks—claims Apple will release a HomePod Mini sometime this year, and with the timing of Apple’s upcoming event on Oct. 13, we could be in store for an official announcement next week.

Given current rumors that Apple will also release an iPhone 12 Mini this fall, the arrival of a HomePod Mini could help amplify Apple’s Mini lineup of more approachable, less expensive tech. Furthermore, a cheaper HomePod feels almost like a necessity for Apple if the company is interested in competing seriously against Google and Amazon’s line of ubiquitous smart speakers. But at this point, I have to question if the HomePod Mini is enough?

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At this point, most people will generally concede that Siri just isn’t as smart or as capable as Alexa or the Google Assistant, which seriously diminishes the appeal of a speaker with Siri built-in. And when you add in the fact that the only Siri-compatible smart speaker costs $300 (which originally launched at $350), it’s probably not a surprise to see Apple lagging far behind Amazon and Google when it comes to smart speaker market share at just 4.7%, compared to 28.3% and 24.9% for Amazon and Google as of Q4 2019 according to Statista.

While rumors regarding the HomePod Mini’s price are pretty thin, current expectations still peg Apple’s more affordable smart speaker with a price tag of around $150, which still seems way too high. That would be three times the price (or more) than the cheapest Nest or Echo smart speaker, and with Google and Amazon regularly running promotions where they are practically giving away free Nest Minis and Echo Dots, it’s difficult to see a $150 or even a $100 HomePod Mini having enough of an impact to seriously affect the status quo.

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With Google’s new Nest Audio sporting the best sound quality for the money, Apple’s new HomePod will be facing even tougher competition when it comes to audio quality, which was the original HomePod’s biggest strength.

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Now, this doesn’t mean the HomePod Mini will be dead on arrival, Apple needs to start somewhere, and as the world’s most valuable company, Apple has a lot more leeway and a longer timeline to turn things around. But until Apple can make a smart speaker that’s truly affordable and address issues with Siri itself, the HomePod Mini may only be a stop-gap measure.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

I was pretty late to the party re: smart speakers. Every time I thought about getting one, I would hear some horror story about somebody’s Echo accidentally ordering a case of cat food, because the speaker overheard a Friskies commercial. Or somebody’s toddler would figure out how Alexa worked, and order $1,000 worth of toys. I will not buy a voice-enabled device that’s hooked up to my Amazon account.

I ultimately got a Homepod, because I have an Apple TV and I wanted an Airplay speaker. As a TV speaker, it works fine. As a smart speaker, it’s kind of dumb. Siri is still only able to adequately answer about 50-60% of my questions. I’m not asking complex stuff, just: “Hey Siri, what’s my iPhone’s battery level?” “Sorry Brian, I can’t do that on this device.” “Hey Siri, what’s the air quality like outside?” “It’s 73 degrees outside.” “Hey Siri, can you recommend a good pizza place nearby?” “Sure Brian, here’s a pizza place that rates 5 stars. It’s 70 miles away. Would you like me to call them?” I find myself getting frustrated with Siri on a daily basis.