Apple HomePod & HomePod mini review: Sounds fantastic but which is better for you?

By Kenny Yeo - 22 Apr 2023

Introduction & what can they do

Note: This feature was first published on 6 April 2023.

The HomePod and HomePod mini are finally officially available in Singapore.

I know what you are going to ask. But no, Apple didn’t say why it took so long for the HomePod and HomePod mini to be finally available in Singapore. 

A brief HomePod history lesson first. The HomePod was first announced way back in June 2017 and it was never officially available here. The second-generation HomePod, the one that we have now, is actually quite fresh. It was announced in January earlier this year. The HomePod mini, on the other hand, was announced back in October 2020.

The TL;DR version:

A niche device that will benefit mostly those who are heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem. If you are, you won’t be disappointed by the way these speakers sound and what they can do.

Anyhow, the two are finally officially available here in Singapore. It’s been a long wait for Apple users. But what are they good for? Should you even get them? And if you should, which one should you get? Let me answer these questions for you.

@hwztech The HomePod and HomePod mini are finally officially available in Singapore. Check out our full review here - #hwzsg #hwz #apple #homepod2 #homepodmini #firstimpression #tech #smartspeaker #smarthome ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

What can HomePods do?

The HomePod is covered by an acoustically transparent mesh fabric and has a compact minimalist aesthetic that makes it easy to assimilate in homes.

Most people are going to use the HomePod and HomePod mini to play music. But they can also do a lot more than that. It’s impossible to list down all the things they can do so I’m just going to list the most probable things that most people would use them for. 

Fussy listeners can take two speakers and form a stereo pair. However, you can only do this with the same type of speaker, so you need either two HomePods or two HomePod minis – you can’t form a pair with a HomePod and a HomePod mini. 

Apart from just improving the overall sound, forming a stereo pair can also be immensely helpful if you have an Apple TV 4K and you want to use the HomePods as speakers for your TV.

You can control the HomePods using various Apple devices. Here, I can choose to stream music from my Mac to any of the HomePods around my home.

And if you have HomePods in more than one room, you can have multi-room audio – not unlike a Sonos system. You can play the same music in all the rooms, play a particular track in just one room, or have each room play different tracks. The possibilities are endless and they can all be controlled using voice or via the Home app.

The HomePod and HomePod mini can also do all the usual smart home stuff with Siri. This requires the Home app and HomeKit and Matter-compatible devices. Apple maintains a list here. And while it’s certainly a sizeable list, it’s still smaller than the list of devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Assistant. Though in Apple’s defence, the majority of the most popular devices do support HomeKit.

The magic of HomePod takes place when you set up your home with smart home accessories.

Once you have your smart devices all set up, you can also use the HomePods to control them. Like any other smart speaker, the HomePods can control them individually or you can create automations. So let’s say if you’ve arrived home, you can say “Hey, Siri, I’m home” and have HomePods turn on the air-conditioner, and lights, and start playing music. 

Privacy is obviously a major concern and Apple has taken a number of steps to protect the privacy of its users.

1. HomePods are only listening out "Hey Siri." Only then is Siri triggered.
2. Requests are tied to a random identifier, not your Apple ID.
3. All data sent between your devices are encrypted.
4. Personal Requests, where possible come from your iPhone and not Apple's servers.

Speaking of automation, the HomePod and HomePod mini both have built-in temperature and humidity sensors. This can be used to trigger actions. For example, if the temperature goes above a certain level, the HomePod could turn on your smart air-conditioner or fan. Likewise, if the humidity goes above a certain level, the HomePods could activate your smart dehumidifier. 

Both the HomePod and HomePod mini have built-in temperature and humidity sensors.

You can also ask Siri questions and I found this to be particularly helpful when I needed quick conversions. Like how much is 5 million Korean won in Singapore dollars, how many millilitres is five teaspoons, or what is 2,000 square feet in square metres. 

These are pretty standard smart speaker stuff but the HomePods have to be commended for being fast. Ask anything and Siri usually responds in mere seconds. 

The top panel gives off a multicolour glow when Siri is responding.

Folks with large homes will surely find the Intercom feature useful. This lets users broadcast short messages to HomePods across the house, so you can tell household members stuff like, “Come down, it’s time for dinner” or “Get ready, we are leaving in 10 minutes.”

Another feature worth highlighting is Handoff and this works if you have an iPhone with the U1 chip (basically anything later than an iPhone 11, minus the iPhone SE). If you are playing music, a podcast, or taking a call on your phone, you can transfer it to your HomePod and have your HomePod continue playing simply by bringing your phone next to it. The way and the ease with which it works is remarkable and demonstrates the deep integration that the HomePods have with other Apple devices.

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