The HomePod mini is gaining features of Apple’s new second-generation HomePod thanks to a software update that should arrive alongside iOS 16.3 later this month. The smallest smart speaker will soon be able to detect temperature and humidity, let you set smart home automations with just your voice, and detect and identify other sounds in your home.
While Apple updates its products on a fairly regular cadence, the added novelty of the HomePod mini’s new set of abilities is that they partially rely on a secret sensor in the device itself, an odd precedent given Apple’s privacy-focused view of consumer technology.
the secret sensor
The presence of a temperature and humidity sensor inside the HomePod mini was previously reported by Bloomberg, but it was unclear if and when Apple would enable the feature. Now that the new (old) HomePod touts temperature and humidity control as one of its main features, it seems Apple doesn’t want to leave its smaller speaker behind.
Not only has the HomePod mini product page been updated to recognize the new features, but owners who are running the release candidate of iOS 16.3 and can download the HomePod software version 16.3 have begun testing the features for themselves.
Weather information can be viewed in the Home app or by a “Hey Siri” command, with the most important option being to set up smart home automations based on what your HomePod detects as the biggest change in functionality. In theory, I could have my HomePod turn on a space heater if it notices the living room drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit without breaking a separate temperature sensor. A huge money-saving convenience in my book, and one that makes Apple’s current HomePods smarter than before.
Other additions, like making HomePod use Find My to track friends, family, or your AirTagged belongings, linking ambient sounds to specific automations, or detecting alarm noises from your non-smart devices like a smoke detector, are all useful enhancements that the HomePod brings. HomePod. more in line with its Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio competition.
Apple adding much-needed features to its smart home products is a good thing, especially since it’s reportedly getting involved in the smart home, but it’s a bit strange that it included functionality in its device that just didn’t tell users. . .
Hiding a temperature and humidity sensor isn’t the same as hiding a microphone or camera—something that actually happened with a Google Nest dongle—but it’s an example of where Apple’s desire to surprise and delight customers collides. with its objective of being transparent and respecting the privacy of customers. I can’t imagine anyone doing something nefarious knowing how warm your bedroom is, but it’s more the beginning of the thing. You deserve to know everything your device can do from the horse’s mouth, not a reporter who discovers it weeks or months later.