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Apple Makes Another Play for Home

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has dabbled in smart homes for years without making much of a path. HomeKit is supposed to be the center of smart home, but has been lagging behind tech stock competitors in the number of compatible products available and is still pretty clunky to use and setup. The HomePod was never the widely adopted smart speaker Apple thought of. And even Apple TV is not a “must-have” for Apple users. Together they and the company had trouble developing a cohesive home approach.

The HomePod Mini, introduced on Tuesday with the iPhone 12, could change Apple’s fate at home. It’s simple to use, packed with features, and most of all, it̵

7;s inexpensive.

Family in a home with HomePod Mini on the table.

Image source: Apple.

Apple fixes HomePod errors

When HomePod was introduced in 2018, it seemed like a logical product extension for Apple. The company is already big on music and Siri is integrated with iPhones, so a speaker is the next step. But the product starts at $ 349, which makes it very expensive compared to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Echo at Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) Home / Nest speakers.

The HomePod Mini fixes that, costing only $ 99. And the form factor is smaller than the original HomePod. The low cost and ability to set up home rooms makes it a great full-home audio system, which is incredibly expensive on the original HomePod.

Another problem that the HomePod Mini fixes is the integration with other Apple devices. The advantage of using the Apple ecosystem is that the products work together seamlessly. But there is still no integration between new products like CarPlay, AirPods, Apple Watch, and the home. New HomePod Mini capabilities like the Intercom feature are starting to tie all of these products together into a more cohesive ecosystem.

Will consumers be able to contact the HomePod Mini?

Apple is once again leaning on what it feels like to differentiate itself from Amazon and Alphabet in smart home. Siri security was highlighted during the launch of the HomePod Mini, and that would be a big selling point if you were someone who valued the security of Apple products.

The real innovation of the HomePod Mini could be its integration into Apple’s ecosystem. The Intercom feature can be used between CarPlay at home or even on AirPods. The ability to connect and communicate at that level can make hands-free communication within the ecosystem of network-connected devices easier.

The basic concept to think about long term is “hands-free.” I think we’re starting to see Apple’s vision for connecting people, devices, and services with just the sound of our voice. When used at its full size, the HomePod Mini can control the temperature of a home, lighting, locks, garage doors, music, as well as a communication tool. What is missing is the integration with the Apple TV, where it can replace the remote.

All 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 integrated with hundreds of millions of iPhones, it still does not drive a smart-home revolution. If the HomePod Mini with Siri could open the line of communication between Apple users and home products, it could be a key point of connection to the products ecosystem.

Is the HomePod Mini a game-changer?

I see the HomePod Mini as an extra step forward for Apple in building a connected ecosystem of home-integrated devices. But it’s not the key to the ecosystem (that’s the iPhone) or a revolutionary new gadget (AirPods), it’s a tuck-in product that would be a great addition to luxury for some users. And with the security that Apple always includes in its products, it could be a device that some users will receive in their homes where Alexa and Google Assistant are shutout.

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