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Apple unveils $99 HomePod Mini smart speaker

Daniel Roberts
·2 min read

While the new line of 5G iPhones was the star of the show at Apple’s (AAPL) live product event on Tuesday, Apple also unveiled a new HomePod smart speaker—its first Mini edition of the product.

HomePod Mini is wrapped in mesh fabric like the original HomePod and comes in the same two colors (white and “space gray”), with play buttons at the top on a backlit touch surface that lights up when you talk to Siri. Inside, it uses the Apple S5 chip also used in Apple Watch. Physically, the spherical HomePod Mini looks a lot like the current iteration of Amazon Echo, which recently shifted from a cylinder to an orb.

Apple acoustics manager David Wilkes, in presenting the new speaker’s sound quality, touted “an audio experience unheard of in a speaker this size.”

HomePod Mini will go on sale Nov. 6, ship on Nov. 16, and retail for $99.

HomePod mini, the newest addition to the HomePod family, stands at 3.3 inches tall and offers impressive sound, the intelligence of Siri, and smart home capabilities. Image: Apple
HomePod mini, the newest addition to the HomePod family, stands at 3.3 inches tall. Image: Apple

Still no Spotify functionality

Apple CEO Tim Cook called HomePod Mini “an entirely new way to discover and interact with music at home.”

The speaker can play music and podcasts, and connect to smart-home accessories, like your lights, via Apple’s Home app on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or CarPlay. One of the Mini’s new features, Intercom, can issue an announcement from Siri to all the other Apple devices in your household.

But the HomePod Mini will still not connect with Spotify, which was a common knock on the first model. It’s not a huge surprise: Apple prefers to promote its own Apple Music.

Apple also announced at its event on Tuesday that iPhone 12 will not come with headphones or power adapters.

It’s all about competing with Amazon and Google

The first HomePod went on sale in 2018 at $349 and was not a hit. Apple has since dropped the price to $299 and added new features via software updates, but Mini is the first new hardware iteration since the product’s debut.

For Apple, it’s all about competing with Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG, GOOGL). Apple was late to the smart speaker race, launching HomePod after Google entered the market with Google Home. Amazon leads the category in the U.S. with 49.5% market share, a slight edge over Google’s 42%, according to IDC in April. In Europe, Google Home briefly overtook Amazon Echo in Q1 2019, before Amazon regained the top position in Q2. HomePod has less than 5% share.

But Amazon’s huge drop from 70% market share just three years ago shows that new entrants can gain a foothold in this still-new product category.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers tech. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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