Siri and HomeKit are long overdue for an upgrade. I need more than just alarms and music. The announcements around Apple’s new chipset have me thinking about Apple can incorporate its new M1 Ultra or M1 Pro into a Homepod Mini.
You have to ask yourself how the Homepod, and more importantly Siri, will do in the years ahead. It’s not enough to be in the top 3 voice assistants when there are only four or five viable options to choose from. With Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa’s ability to integrate with nearly every device under the sun, how can Siri compete?
Siri’s primary audience are people (much like myself) that are solely and heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem. In contrast, Assistant and Alexa are mostly ecosystem agnostic. Most companies don’t have to market and fight for their diehard users the way Apple does. Companies need to create enticing experiences for new users to jump ship. Siri doesn’t have many of those features to convince someone to come over. Homepod Mini is more expensive than other voice assistant-enabled speakers, and HomeKit-exclusive accessories are few and far between.
If you need a device that will play music at decent volumes, act as an alarm clock or timer, and answer the most basic questions, then the current Homepod will work just fine. With the new batch of colors, you’ve got the chance to try and match your Homepod with your home’s aesthetic. The ability to pair two Homepod Minis together in stereo or group multiple together helps with the audio quality. For one person who’s not looking to absolutely rave, one Homepod per room may be enough. A stereo pair will certainly be enough for most rooms — maybe not a decent-sized basement, though. These smart speakers won’t be enough to supply enough music for a party.
Looking at the price point, the Homepod Mini competes with the Nest Audio (which is forever on sale) and Amazon Echo. But, frankly speaking, the sound coming from the Homepod Mini just doesn’t keep up with its opponents, and neither does its voice capabilities.
As noted by recent device announcements and events, Apple has been working hard on creating new system chips to create the fastest, most efficient, all-around best devices available for consumers and pros alike. Apple might need to look into putting the M1 chip into its Homepod Mini. But, we wonder, will that chip improve Siri and the Homepod, or will it forever lag behind Google’s and Amazon’s choices?
If you’re not familiar with the M1 Ultra, or the M1 series in general, these chips are Apple’s 1st-party processing chips. They will be powering the Mac Studio and likely upcoming devices. That specific chip is the best in Apple’s line of SoC’s, starting with the basic M1, then M1 Pro, M1 Max, and lastly, M1 Ultra. They all improve upon each other from faster speeds and better power to more efficiency. You can think of the Ultra as 2x better than the Max, which is already a powerhouse in its own right. They are currently only available in Apple’s MacBooks and iPads.
Let’s take a deeper dive into Siri. Siri comes default on nearly all of Apple’s hardware, even its wireless earbuds. One of Siri’s biggest downfalls is that it doesn’t try to replace a human. Apple continually improves Siri while keeping it in line with the company’s privacy policies, but the assistant simply falls behind. Siri feels like a robot rather than an assistant. Every command has to proceed by the phrase “Hey Siri” rather than organically continuing the conversation like other assistants allow you to do. Also, issuing multiple commands at once can be a hit or miss. On my HomePods, I’m frequently hit with a “hold on …” or “working on it …” response from Siri, indicating that one of my Homepods has an error.
Conversational speech is a significant area Siri and Homepod need to improve, but attention also needs to be given to general inquires and knowledge. The amount of questions you can ask Google is incredible. I want to hear answers to anything I ask rather than a query search (“On the internet it says …”) or a basic “I can’t answer that.”
As mentioned earlier, Siri has likely been handicapped over the years due to Apple’s focus on privacy. However, every company knows a lot about its users, which helps each assistant begin to understand you and better tailor to your needs over time. We all know that Google hoards data, which may be concerning, but the upside is that Assistant is pretty helpful for small everyday needs.
For most casual Apple users, Siri is generally OK — probably even good. If Apple were to introduce a new Siri-powered device, say a smart display (something the platform desperately needs), that would likely require more data to be more functional. Siri would have to gather more data and would have to be improved.
For the Homepod, Apple needs a bigger size to be more marketable to more consumers. The Homepod Mini isn’t the best in any category. It’s simply the Apple choice. If you want to be all-in on Apple and have everything work seamlessly, then you have to get the Homepod Mini. Apple could improve the speaker itself in many different ways.
So while it may seem like Siri is the punching bag of all voice assistant jokes and the Homepod Mini is just an overpriced small smart speaker, they are actually pretty good — but both could be better. Siri could be more human-like. Homepod Mini could sound better or have another bigger, louder, option. All we can do is hope Apple brings these updates sooner rather than later.