It’s been a big year for smart speakers. There are several new kids in town, as well as some returning champions. One new player is Apple’s recently announced , the company’s first “miniature” smart speaker. While it’s one of the more expensive mini smart devices (releasing November 16), the promised tech and other features are pretty incredible.
Returning for their fourth generation, Amazon unveiled its latest. A new spherical look, improved audio, and a speaker half the price of the Homepod Mini are a few of Amazon’s own promised perks.
If you’re thinking of grabbing a new mini smart speaker, read on for a side-by-side of the Apple HomePod Mini and Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen).
Both the HomePod Mini and Echo Dot are spherical smart speakers. Measuring in at 3.3 inches tall and 3.9 inches wide and weighing 0.76 pounds, the HomePod Mini will be available in white and Space Gray at launch. The latest-gen Echo Dot is nearly identical to the HomePod Mini dimensions. Amazon’s speaker measures 3.5 inches tall and 3.9 inches wide, and it weighs 0.75 pounds. The Echo Dot does bring more color options to the table than the HomePod. Choices include charcoal, Glacier White, and Twilight Blue.
In terms of button layout, the HomePod Mini uses a touchpad at the top of the speaker for play/pause, track skip, and other commands. The Echo Dot goes for the more traditional button approach that Amazon has used for years. Buttons include volume up/down, mic on/off, and an action button. Neither speaker is designed for wall mounting.
We’ve yet to get our hands on either smart speaker for a proper audio demo. Once we do, we’ll be sure to update this piece with our findings. However, we can still take a closer look at the engineering behind both smart speakers.
The HomePod Mini will utilize two passive radiators and a single full-range driver to deliver one of the finest compact speaker sounds — not to mention Apple’s custom acoustic waveguide and computational audio features. These are calibration tools (powered by Apple’s S5 chip) that help to balance sound output at various volume levels. The price tag of $99 is a bit steep for a small speaker (more on pricing below), but we expect these dedicated audio tools are the culprit.
The new Echo Dot uses a single 1.6-inch front-firing speaker and has no calibration tools to speak of (these features are reserved for the standard Echo). We’re guessing the sound quality will be close to the previous generation, as both use the same size driver. Once we hear it in action, though, we’ll be sure to report back.
Controls and notable features
For the HomePod Mini, Apple’s Siri runs the show. One of the biggest perks for Apple fans is a lower-priced Apple HomeKit gateway device. Before the $99 Mini, the Apple TV 4K (at $179) was the cheapest way into Apple’s smart home ecosystem (or to use your iPad). Once connected, your Mini will be able to control your smart home devices, set and create schedules, search for news and weather, and access popular streaming services like Apple Music, Pandora, Prime Music, and more. You can interact with the smart speaker using voice commands preceded by “Hey, Siri” or through the Home app on your iOS device.
One of our favorite HomePod Mini tricks is the speaker’s iOS casting ability. It goes like this. Say you walk past your Mini and love the song it’s playing, but you’re on your way out the door. iPhone users will be able to hover their phone by the Mini, which will automatically begin playing the mini song on your phone. This feature also works in reverse. If you happen to have two HomePod Minis in the same room, you can also pair both speakers together for stereo sound.
Echo Dot users will see the return of Alexa as Amazon’s all-powerful voice assistant. Like the HomePod Mini, Alexa allows you to stream music, check news and weather, control smart devices, and more. Voice commands are preceded by “Alexa” when interacting directly with the Dot, and mobile controls are handled by the Amazon Alexa app on your mobile device.
While not exclusive to the latest Echo Dot, Amazon’s new Alexa Guard feature is one of our favorite Echo features. When enabled, your Echo speaker will monitor for sounds like smoke alarms and breaking glass. Once your Echo hears the sound, you’ll receive a notification on your phone. Alexa Guard Plus (a paid version of Alexa Guard) rolls out later this year and will include additional features like access to an emergency hotline, monitoring for footsteps and other break-in sounds, and emitting siren and dog sounds for warding off intruders.
Both the HomePod Mini and Echo Dot also have an intercom function (although Alexa’s is a bit more advanced). With Apple’s Intercom function, you can deliver audio messages to other HomePod Minis in your home. The Echo Dot version of this feature is called Drop In. The extra perk with Drop In is that you can also use it to interact with Amazon devices outside of your own home. Say you’ve got a friend with an Echo Dot, and you’ve got one, too. Once permissions are enabled in the Alexa app, Drop In will allow you to talk to your buddy through their Echo speaker (and vice versa).
Price and warranty
The HomePod Mini will sell for $99. You can pre-order the speaker starting November 6. The product officially hits shelves on November 16. The Echo Dot (4th Gen) released October 22, and it sells for $49.
In terms of warranty, the HomePod Mini comes with a one-year limited guarantee from Apple, along with 90 days of complimentary tech support. For an extra $15, you can opt to add AppleCare+ to your Mini. This covers you for an additional two years of accidental damage protection. Do note that you’re only allowed two accident claims per year, both of which are subject to a $15 service fee and taxes.
The Echo Dot comes with a 90-day limited guarantee and Amazon, as well as the option to add between one to three years of extended accidental coverage, with coverage prices starting at $4.
We’d be hard-pressed to pick a winner right now. We can assume that Apple fans are going to love the HomePod Mini for its dedicated iOS functions and Apple S5-assisted audio performance. But other than some niche sound features, the Echo Dot can do just as much (if not more), and for $50 less than the competition.
Once both speakers are officially in our hands, we’ll be sure to pop back into this comparison to fill in the missing pieces and to share our thoughts on which product walks away the victor.
Article Tags: Amazon · Apple · Dot · Echo · HomePod · Mini