Apple announces the $99 HomePod mini with Intercom and more

At today’s Apple event, the firm unveiled a smaller HomePod, called the HomePod mini. The device is a smaller version of the HomePod aimed at a larger audience. The company touts that the device sports premium audio and 360-degree surround sound experience, thanks to internals that are tweaked 180 times a second and powered by the S5 chip.

As expected, the speaker also can be used to create a stereo pair. However, one nifty new feature coming to the device later this year is a handoff capability that automatically transfers audio between multiple speakers and an iPhone that is closest to the device. This is enabled by the new U1 ultra-wideband chip in the speaker. The firm also announced support for third-party apps coming soon to the HomePod mini, including the like of Pandora and Amazon Music. Interestingly, there was no mention of Spotify.

Naturally, there are some new capabilities for the digital assistant, Siri, on the smart speaker. The HomePod mini is equipped with a three-microphone array that listens to the wake word. Thanks to better integration with other Apple devices, Siri can now access iPhone apps for making calls, sending messages, control Apple TV, and more. The speaker can also differentiate between voices, tailoring requests based on users, such as providing a personalized rundown of updates for individual users in the house.

Siri can also be used to control smart home devices, but one new ability is the new Intercom feature. Users can now broadcast messaged not just within the house to other connected HomePod devices, but also to the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, CarPlay, and even AirPods via the form of notifications. This enables users to broadcast messages not just across rooms, but even when they are outside the house.

The company is also boasting of the focus on privacy. It says that the voice requests are not tied to any Apple ID and that personalized information is not sent to any advertisers. The device also allows users to decide if audio recordings are stored.

The Apple HomePod mini is priced at $99 and can be pre-ordered starting November 6 in the U.S., with availability set for November 16. The available colors are white and space gray.

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