My HomePod Mini Proposal (redux)

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

Almost exactly 6 months ago, a full 3 months before HomePod shipped, I wrote this piece about what HomePod model I was hoping Apple would make for the 2018 holiday season. Since then we have seen not one, not two, but three separate rumors indicating that Apple is working on a cheaper HomePod for release later this year. Maybe I was onto something 😉

Anyway, I was going to re-address the HomePod mini argument as someone who has been using a HomePod every day since it was delivered back on February 9. But after thinking about it for a bit today, I don’t actually think my opinion has changed much at all.

To recap, here are 3 changes I think Apple could make to create a HomePod Mini and one basic tip for how they could make Siri better across all devices in their lineup.

1. Cut the cost from $349 to $199

A MacBook Pro costs over $2,000, but the specs are not that much worse than other Windows laptops in the same price range. Also, if you don’t want to spend that, they have computers all the way down to $599. Likewise, the iPhone X is $1,149, but they have iPhones down to $349. Having the HomePod as their only speaker is like them only selling the 15” MacBook Pro, thereby having their only computer cost over $3,000.

The base cost of a HomePod needs to be lower. If they want to be anything besides a niche player in this game, they need to have an entry level speaker that people can buy into if they find $349 to be a ridiculous price to spend on any speaker. They don’t need to compete with the Echo Dots and Google Home Minis, but they do need to sell people on why they should spend more, and the current pitch isn’t strong enough for a lot of people.

2. Dip the sound quality a bit

Apple should simplify the audio output so that it is still excellent, but removes a lot of the advanced processing the embedded A8 processor is doing in the existing model. Reduce the 7 tweeters to 4. Maybe even remove the ability to use multiple HomePods together to get stereo sound.

I’m fairly confident Apple could make some changes and still have the best sounding smart speaker on the market and justify their still-premium price point.

The HomePod sounds great, it really does. Likewise, a 4K screen on a phone looks great too, but almost no one can tell the difference between and 4K phone screen and a 1080p screen. I fully believe that Apple could make a HomePod for $199 that sounds better than all the other $199 speakers out there and use the added benefit of Siri and Apple Music to differentiate it from the pack.

3. Make it a little smaller

At 6.8 inches tall, the HomePod is pretty darn small already (the Amazon Echo Plus is 9.3 inches tall), but removing some of the speakers and speaker tech could surely cut the size of the device down a bit (4.5 inches in this mockup). This isn’t a required change, but size matters when it comes to speakers, and people will inherently see a smaller speaker as less premium than a larger speaker.

If you’re going to call it a”mini” you may as well make it smaller.

Siri tip: iCloud App Library

This change would impact both models of HomePod, but I had to mention it here. Apple should add an option to install an app to your “iCloud App Library” upon installation. The idea of this new feature is that apps would be able to run their Siri functionality in the cloud and not require its app to be installed on each device you use.

This would just make Siri better everywhere. Let apps install themselves to your iCloud account rather than your local devices. That way, when a request comes in for that app, you don’t have to have it installed on your device, the request will just work.