I have an admission to make: I rely on Siri way too much. I never really used her that often when she was just on my phone. But ever since I got a regular-sized HomePod a couple of years ago, Siri has become an enmeshed part of my work routine.
From sitting down at my desk and asking “Hey Siri, play some music”, to double checking that a word really means what I think it means, or finding an alternative word when I’m drawing a blank. She also does simple maths, sets timers, sets reminders and (now) broadcasts to the HomePod in the living room when my wife or I needs to ask a quick question or something.
And sure, all of these are things I could just type into Google, or look up in the dictionary, or I could walk to the living room. But doing all those things takes me out of the document I’m working on and gives me the excuse to “just check Twitter for a second” and lose my train of thought.
Asking Siri without looking up keeps me focussed on my task and allows me to be more productive.
Although I certainly have privacy concerns about relying on a smart assistant, they’re lower with Siri than when I need to review a Google Home product (even though they still have some incredible features).
Sure, Apple is probably doing something with all that information it’s getting from users, but it’s likely just using it to make products that are better targeted. With Apple, their products are the product. With Google, it’s always important to remember that your data and attention to their ads is their primary product. Amazon Alexa is in a similar boat to Google.
But, $469 is a lot of money to spend on a smart speaker, even one that sounds really good, if you’re not sure smart speakers are really your thing.
Enter the brand new, $149 HomePod Mini, the most adorable smart speaker you ever did see. It has strong crystal ball vibes in the white, and having the small black one next to my big black one looks like a tiny goth family gathering.
The sound is still strong, with bass and mid tones that sound far better than you’d expect in something so very tiny. It doesn’t have the power of the big speaker, nor does it have the spatial awareness that allows the sound of the big one to adapt to the space. But it’s also $310 cheaper and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
If you get more than one you can set it up for stereo sound, or multi-room audio and intercom. It works with HomeKit-enabled smart home devices, and can learn the voice of up to six family members so they can control their own Apple Music accounts or set reminders on their own iCloud accounts instead of yours.
It’s also out just in time for Christmas and is priced so well it’s easy to see that a lot of people will be getting one this holiday season. I know it’s something I’d strongly consider getting my mum.
Of course, if you’re not baked into the Apple ecosystem it’s entirely useless for you, and Apple’s lack of flexibility in integrating with other brands is potentially a major problem and eventually we’re going to have to deal with the enmeshed tech monopolies that have thrived over the last decade.
But that’s future us’ problem. For now, this is an adorable smart speaker that’s well priced and won’t be used by a major corporation to sell your data to other companies for various nefarious purposes, and instead just wants to play your music and do your maths.