While the sort of new HomePod grabbed all the attention this week, the HomePod Mini is also getting some new features. With the launch of iOS 16.3 (likely later this month), the Mini will get all the same smart home capabilities as the new, bigger HomePod second-gen. The differences between the two Apple speaker siblings are now mainly in size and sound capability. From new temperature and humidity sensing tricks to the ability to find your family for you and even set up automations with just your voice, these new features should make the HomePod Mini a little more useful around the house.
Both HomePods are also getting a Sound Recognition feature later this year, allowing them to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. I saw a preview of this, and it looks like a useful integration, allowing you to talk directly to anyone in your home through the HomePod from a notification on your lock screen. But my favorite new capability is something Siri now won’t do — which is to talk back to you every time you ask it to turn off the lights. I like my voice assistants to say as little as possible.
The new capabilities will show up automatically once you update your devices to iOS 16.3 and HomePod software version 16.3, which should be available later this month. However, the Release Candidate of the iOS 16.3 beta landed on Wednesday, so I downloaded it to get an early look at some of these new features. Here are some first impressions.
We’ve known that the HomePod Mini had a temperature and humidity sensor onboard for a while, but it’s been dormant since launch. With HomePod software version 16.3, the chip is getting its wake-up call, and once your HomePod Mini is updated, it can start to monitor the temperature and humidity for you in the room it’s in.
You can see the readings at a glance in the Home app on iOS and iPad OS devices that are also updated to 16.3. The easiest way is to tap on the Climate shortcut at the top of the homescreen, which shows the readings of all temperature and humidity sensors in your home.
In the app, you can also see the readings at the top of the room the speaker is in. If you have multiple temperature sensors in the room, it will display an average of them. Tap on the reading to get to the individual sensor’s readings and settings.
Here, you can rename the sensors. Oddly, the HomePod sensors showed up with different default names on each of the two HomePod Minis I have. On one, they came through as Humidity Sensor and Temperature Sensor, and on the other, they came through with a more generic HomePod Sensor136480.
You can create automations from this settings page to do things like trigger other smart home devices to respond to the temperature or humidity rising above or dropping below a certain threshold. You can also create scenes and automations using the sensors through the automations tab of the app.
As with most Apple Home automations, you can set parameters using time (any time, during the day, at night, or specific times) and / or people (when somebody is home, when I am home, when nobody is home, or when I am not home).
I successfully created an automation to turn on the heat on the mini-split unit in my bedroom to 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the temperature drops below 66 degrees Fahrenheit and then to turn on the AC when it gets above 76.
I also tested the HomePod Mini’s readings against an Aqara indoor air quality monitor, and they were consistently close, only varying by a degree at any one time on temperature and by around 2 percent on humidity.
Apple does warn that the sensors are optimized for ambient temperatures around 69 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit and that accuracy isn’t guaranteed when the speaker is playing music for long periods of time at high volumes. (I haven’t tested this yet.)
Other potential automations the sensors could be used for include lowering smart shades if the temperature rises in the afternoon when the sun may add radiant heat to the room — or to turn on a fan connected to a smart plug when the temperature rises or activate a compatible smart humidifier when the humidity drops below a certain point.
One thing I would like to be able to do that I couldn’t is set it to send a notification when the temperature or humidity changes significantly — which would be helpful, say, in a nursery.