Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) tried the smart home for years without making much progress. HomeKit was supposed to be the hub of the smart home, but has fallen behind the competition in terms of the number of compatible products available and is still a bit clunky to use and configure. HomePod was never the widely adopted smart speaker Apple envisioned. And even Apple TV is not a “must have” for Apple users. Put them together and the company just struggled to build a cohesive strategy at home.
HomePod Mini, which was introduced on Tuesday with the iPhone 12, could change Apple’s fortunes at home. It’s simple to use, feature rich, and most importantly, inexpensive.
Apple fixes HomePod errors
When HomePod was introduced in 2018, it seemed like a logical product extension for Apple. The company was already big in music and Siri was integrated into iPhones, so a speakerphone was the next step. But the product started at $ 349, which makes it very expensive compared to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Echo and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) Home / Nest Speakers.
HomePod Mini fixes that, costing just $ 99. And the form factor is much smaller than the original HomePod. The low cost and the ability to install rooms in the home make it a great whole home audio system, which would have been incredibly expensive with the original HomePod.
The other issue that the HomePod Mini solves is integration with other Apple devices. The advantage of using the Apple ecosystem is that the products work together seamlessly. But there hasn’t been a lot of integration between newer products like CarPlay, AirPods, Apple Watch, and Home. New HomePod Mini features, such as the Intercom feature, bring all of these products together into a more cohesive ecosystem.
Will the HomePod Mini resonate with consumers?
Apple once again takes a look at what makes Amazon and Alphabet different in the smart home. Siri’s security was put on the fore when the HomePod Mini launched, and that will be a big selling point if you’re someone who appreciates the security of Apple products.
The real innovation of the HomePod Mini could be its integration into the Apple ecosystem. The Intercom function can be used between CarPlay and home or even with AirPods. Being able to connect and communicate at this level could facilitate hands-free communication within the ecosystem of network-connected devices.
The key concept for thinking long term is “hands free”. I think we’re starting to see Apple’s vision for connecting people, devices, and services with just the sound of our voices. When used to the maximum, the HomePod Mini can control a house’s temperature, lights, locks, garage door, music, and be a communication tool. What’s missing is integration with Apple TV, where it could even replace the remote.
What I’m wondering is if the features will be used as intended by Apple. HomeKit was originally meant to be a smart home hub for everyone, and although it’s included on hundreds of millions of iPhones, it still doesn’t lead to a smart home revolution. If HomePod Mini with Siri can open that line of communication between users and Apple’s home product, it could be a key connection point in the product ecosystem.
Is HomePod Mini a game-changer?
I see HomePod Mini as a gradual step forward for Apple in creating an ecosystem of connected devices that includes the home. But that’s not the key to the ecosystem (it’s the iPhone) or a revolutionary new gadget (AirPods), it’s a built-in product that will be a nice luxury addition for some users. And with the security Apple still includes in its products, this could be a device some users will welcome in their homes where Alexa and Google Assistant have been excluded.