10 Apple HomePod Mini Tricks to Try as 2020 Ends
Apple’s 2020 will be remembered as the year the company made a bid for the entry-level smart speaker market by launching the Apple HomePod Mini. The tech giant made plenty of updates and improvements to its smart device ecosystem with the new AirPods Max headphones and the hints about smart glasses and virtual reality headsets to come. Still, it’s the HomePod Mini and related additions to Siri that will matter most for the company’s prospects. We’ve picked out 10 of the features and voice apps offered by the HomePod Mini that could determine how well it performs against the even cheaper smart speakers sold by Amazon or Google.
Much of the appeal of the HomePod Mini comes from how well it can integrate with iPhones, the much more commonly used interface for Siri. That includes Siri Shortcuts, meaning any custom command linked to multiple apps or devices can be activated on a HomePod Mini as well as an iPhone.
A very useful feature for those with multiple Apple devices, Handoff allows for an easy switch between audio players based on proximity. A user simply needs to come close to their HomePod Mini with their iPhone to transfer audio from one to the other.
One of the other benefits of the close connections with iPhones is that the HomePod Mini can search for phones and other Apple devices when asked. The phone will ring when the smart speaker is asked to help find it, a not inconsiderable benefit.
The connection essentially makes the iPhone an extension of the HomePod or make the smart speaker a way of augmenting the phone, depending on how you look at it. When asked a question, the smart speaker will answer aloud and send cards with further details to the user’s iPhone, or if asked about a location, will forward directions directly to the Maps app on the iPhone.
Released in tandem with the HomePod Mini, the new Intercom feature creates a connection between multiple HomePods and HomePod Minis in a single home. When activated, a user can speak a message to one smart speaker and ask Siri to have it play from every other Apple smart speaker in the home, or just in one room, if the receiving HomePod has been named based on the room it is in.
When two or more HomePod Minis are in the same room, they can also network with each other, playing in sync and automatically creating stereo pairs if they are placed in the same room. As a way of enticing owners of Apple TVs to buy the HomePod Minis and vice versa, the speakers can also hook up relatively easily to Apple TVs, creating a who home theater surround sound-style setup.
What’s My Update
“What’s My Update” was highlighted in the HomePod Mini announcement as a major new Siri feature. When asked that question, the voice assistant will pull together local weather, personal calendar data, reminders, and other details to report to the questioner, regardless of which device is asked.
The personalization is possible thanks to the improved user recognition Siri can now perform. The voice assistant can recognize the primary user’s voice, allowing them to set permissions for other users as well. For instance, a child may be able to tell Siri to turn lights on or off but not adjust the home security system. And each individual can make their own playlists or send messages.
Apple wants people to listen to Apple Music on its HomePod devices and has done a lot to give complete voice control over the audio to Siri. Not only can users create and edit playlists with the HomePod Mini by asking Siri, but they can also tap the voice assistant’s musicology knowledge as a bonus. Siri can answer both basic questions about when a song came out to more detailed queries about who the drummer is on a particular piece or when a new album from a particular artist is due to come out. The music also extends to the HomePod alarms, meaning you can make a favorite song, the alarm you wake up to, or the one for reminding you to check the oven.
Apple’s long-time reluctance to include third-party music services on its smart speakers has finally thawed this year. Pandora is the first of the audio streaming services to be accessible on a HomePod and HomePod Mini, instead of just playable by broadcasting from an iPhone. Siri can now understand requests to play different Pandora radio stations and even set it as the default music player.