Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Engadget's Nathan Ingraham discuss Apple's new HomePod mini.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Here to talk about it is Nathan Ingraham. He is deputy managing editor of our sister brand Engadget.
Nathan, thanks for being here. So, look, Apple's HomePod was a little bit of a tough sell when it came out a couple of years ago. First off, it was highly priced compared to what else was on the market. This mini though, $100. You had a chance to take it for a test drive. What did you think?
NATHAN INGRAHAM: Yeah, I had a chance to take two of them for a test drive actually. And at $100, it is a pretty good speaker, especially for a big Apple fan. The bottom line is that it sounds really good and that Siri has gotten more useful over the last 2 and 1/2 years.
When the original HomePod launched, it was kind of missing some key features that speakers from Amazon and Google had. And so they spent the last couple years catching up there. Now they have, and, for $100, it's a pretty compelling option.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: But, you know, talk about timing, this is happening-- Apple's dropping this at the same time you've got Amazon and Google coming out with their less expensive speakers. I think they're also $100. So what might be the great differentiator for consumers other than, you know, OK, I'm part of the Apple ecosystem, so I'm going to go with the Home mini?
NATHAN INGRAHAM: Yeah, so I'll say that it's smaller than both of those new speakers from Amazon and Google. So if you're like tight on space, it's a good option. It's really about the size of like an orange in your hand, so it's very small, not that the Echo and the Nest Audio are very large. But if space is a premium, that's one reason.
The other reason might be just if you don't want to have Alexa devices in your house, if, for whatever reason, from a privacy standpoint, you look at Amazon or Google-- with the Google Assistant-- and just don't feel quite as comfortable there. Apple does make privacy kind of one of the most important things about its services, so that's definitely another reason to consider Apple's speaker.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: For you, are all three of those speakers, in terms of sound quality, pretty comparable?
NATHAN INGRAHAM: So I will say that Amazon's latest Echo sounds really, really excellent for its price point, for $100. The HomePod mini doesn't quite stack up there, nor does the Nest Audio. Not that those sound bad on their own, but if you put them side by side in a room and listen to them, the Echo would clearly be the better one. So if you're a big music fan and don't mind Alexa, I would say that like the Echo is probably your best option.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right. I want to squeeze in this Mac upgrade, the Big Sur. I know it's a free upgrade, so cost is not part of this equation, but what did you think of the upgrade?
NATHAN INGRAHAM: Yeah, I've been using the beta for the last two months or so, and there's a couple important things I think that you want to know about going into it. One is that the design language changed quite a bit, so it looks a little bit more like you'd see if you're used to using an iPad or an iPhone, which, for a lot of people, that will be kind of a familiar update. It's nothing too dramatic, but there's lots of little touches across the OS that make it feel a little more modern and a little bit more familiar, like people who've been using the iPhone and the iPad.
Another big improvement is, if you use iMessage, which I think is a big driver for a lot of people on the iPhone, the experience using that on the Mac now is identical, and it's really good. You can pin conversations to the top of the list so you can find them easy. You can send message effects that people like a lot. You can create your own Memoji-- which is a little emoji that looks like you-- on your Mac and send those. So if you're used to these features on an iPhone, you'll be happy to see them show up on your Mac. Those are just a couple of things, but there is a lot under the hood that's changed.