What does this mean for Apple’s plans for the home?
I have to admit that I’ve been more excited about some of Apple’s “other” rumored devices than the iPhone this year. While the iPad Air was interesting because it delivers some Pro features at a cheaper starting price, the AirPods Studio and HomePod Mini both sounded new and different.
The HomePod Mini really didn’t grab me until I saw Apple’s segment on it during the iPhone announcement. Before that, the name alone just made it sound like a smaller version of the overpriced (at least when it first went on sale) original. While the tech looks solid for a smaller device, it was the $99 price tag that really got my attention. I didn’t think it would be that reasonably priced going in. Let’s face it- Apple isn’t really known for value pricing, are they? Well, that $99 price really changed my perception of the product.
It seems I’m not the only one, either. While the various models of the iPhone 12 have evidently sold well this year, the HomePod Mini sold out during pre-orders yesterday, with delivery now pushed out as late as December 13. While it’s possible that production was a bit limited as the COVID pandemic has delayed and restricted the availability of all kinds of electronics, this still sounds impressive to me. It also seems that pre-orders outpaced what Apple expected for the Mini out of the gate. Hopefully that will motivate them to continue pushing improvements to Siri and the home automation capabilities of this hardware.
While many Apple fans have been asking for a HomePod Mini over the last two years, right now really is the ideal time for such a device. While the original HomePod was a successful speaker, it was lackluster at best as a smart home hub and intelligent assistant. Apple’s HomeKit just wasn’t fully baked or nearly as appealing as the competition to the third party manufacturers building home automation accessories. And don’t even get me started on Siri. It has improved at a snail’s pace and still needs work, but it really wasn’t ready when the HomePod hit the market.
Apple finally got smart about improving HomeKit and making its devices more compelling for use with home automation products a couple of years ago. Because of this, we are finally seeing more smart home devices coming with Apple HomeKit compatibility to go with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. If you are an Apple user who’s fully immersed in their ecosystem, this makes the HomePod Mini more compelling as a smart home assistant than its predecessor.
The release of the HomePod Mini and the way Apple framed it during its announcement tells me that they are committed to improving HomeKit and expanding their reach in home automation. The Mini was obviously designed for this purpose as much as being a quality speaker. The high level of interest in it during pre-orders yesterday tells me that Apple has gotten much closer to the balance of price and features that their customers have been looking for this time around. While its impact on Apple’s share of the home automation market remains to be seen, the Mini is definitely off to a good start.