Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) have been baptizing in the smart home for years without coming out much. HomeKit was supposed to be the center of the smart home, but has lagged competitors in tech stocks in the number of products available and is still a bit clumsy to use and set up. The HomePod was never the widely adopted smart speaker that Apple envisioned. And even Apple TV is not a “must-have” for Apple users. Put them together, and the company has simply had trouble building a coherent strategy at home.
The HomePod Mini, introduced Tuesday along with the iPhone 12, could change Apple’s fortunes in the home. It̵
Apple fixes the HomePod errors
When the 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 speaker was the next step. But the product started at $ 349, which made it very expensive compared to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Echo and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) Home / Nest speakers.
The HomePod Mini fixes it and costs only $ 99. And the form factor is much smaller than the original HomePod. The low cost and the ability to create rooms in the home make it a great sound system for a full home, which would have been incredibly expensive with the original HomePod.
The second problem that the HomePod Mini solves is the integration with Apple’s other devices. The advantage of using Apple’s ecosystem is that the products work together seamlessly. But there has not been much integration between new products like CarPlay, AirPods, Apple Watch and the home. New features with the HomePod Mini like the Intercom feature are starting to tie all of these products together into a more cohesive ecosystem.
Will the HomePod Mini resonate with consumers?
Apple leans again in what it feels like, different from Amazon and the Alphabet in the smart home. Siri’s security was highlighted during the HomePod Mini launch, and it’s going to be a big selling point if you’re someone who values the security of Apple products.
The real innovation of the HomePod Mini may be its integration across Apple’s ecosystem. The intercom feature can be used between CarPlay for the home or even for AirPods. Being able to connect and communicate at this level can facilitate hands-free communication within the ecosystem to devices connected to the network.
The key concept to thinking about the long term is “hands free”. I think we’re starting to see the vision Apple has for connecting people, devices and services with the sound of our voice. If used to the fullest extent possible, the HomePod Mini can control the temperature of the house, lights, locks, garage door, music and be a communication tool. What is missing is integration with Apple TV, where it can even replace the remote control.
What I have to wonder is if the features will be used as Apple intended. HomeKit was originally supposed to be a smart-home hub for everyone, and despite being included in hundreds of millions of iPhones, it still does not run a smart-home revolution. If the HomePod Mini with Siri can open this line of communication between users and Apple’s home product, it can be an important connection point across the product ecosystem.
Is HomePod Mini a game changer?
I see the HomePod Mini as a step-by-step step for Apple in building a connected ecosystem of devices that include the home. But it’s not the key to the ecosystem (it’s the iPhone) or a revolutionary new gadget (AirPods), it’s a plugged in product that will be a great luxury addition for some users. And with the security that Apple always includes in its products, this may be a device that some users will welcome in their homes where Alexa and Google Assistant have been shut down.