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We haven’t gotten our hands on a HomePod Mini just yet, and it won’t be available for preorder until Nov. 6 (devices ship and go on sale Nov. 16), but here’s a look at the biggest new features Apple announced, as well as how you’ll use them.
Automatically pair two HomePods for stereo sound
One of the downsides to using a smart speaker is you lose the three-dimensional sound you’d get from a stereo, which separates music into two channels (surround-sound uses even more) and plays sounds at different levels on opposite speakers. Other smart speakers let you pair them up in their respective apps, but Apple says when you put two HomePod Minis in the same room, the speakers will recognize each other and automatically separate into left and right channels to create a stereo pair.
How you’ll use it: If you pick up two of Apple’s newest smart speaker (or are lucky enough to get them as holiday gifts), you can place them on a bookshelf, end tables or desk and the speakers will sense each other’s presence and ask if you’d like to connect them in stereo.
Why it’s cool: Smart speaker settings are notoriously confusing and difficult to navigate, especially when setting up stereo pairing. It takes no fewer than, for example. This way could be much more streamlined.
Intercom broadcasts your announcements on HomePod Mini and more
HomePod Mini’s new intercom feature means no more shouting to announce dinner. Instead, get everyone’s attention by broadcasting a message that plays on HomePods and appears as a push notification on iOS devices scattered throughout the house.
How it works: Record a message on a HomePod, iPhone ($699 at Amazon), iPad ($239 at Back Market) or Mac, and Siri will play it on all your HomePods as well as household members’ AirPods ($129 at Amazon) and will send a push notification to household iOS devices and Macs.
How you’ll use it: Say, “Hey Siri, tell everyone… ,” then include the message you want to broadcast across the house.
Why it’s cool: Google Home has a similar feature and , but Apple’s Intercom feature goes beyond smart home devices and pings the devices people pay attention to the most as well: their phones and tablets.
Presence-sensing connects your HomePod Mini and phone auto-magically
Later this year, Apple says, when you bring a compatible iPhone up next to a HomePod Mini, you’ll be able to “hand off” music, with visual, sound and haptic (vibration) cues that create a stronger sense of connection between the devices.
How it works: The HomePod Mini has the same Bluetooth.Apple included in the iPhone 11 and 12 series, which theoretically allows the devices to sense the distance between each other more accurately than other technologies like
How you’ll use it: Let’s say you’re listening to a playlist on AirPods connected to your iPhone but you want to play the music out loud on a HomePod Mini. You’ll walk over to the HomePod Mini, unlock your phone and follow prompts to “sling” the music to the smart speaker, complete with animations, sounds and vibrations to confirm the transaction.
Why it’s cool: Ultra-wideband technology is fairly new, and device makers are just beginning to scratch the surface of possibilities.
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