I’ve owned a lot of smart speakers in the past few years but I think the device I’ve enjoyed the most is the Google Nest Hub (I think that’s what they’re calling it this year). It does a few things really well:
- Music playback control
- Smart home controls
- Can be a video casting target, also can play a few video services natively
- Passive photo slideshow when not in use
- Good visual timer countdown
- Google image search – the kids love this
The major downside is that I’ve mostly moved on from Google smart home stuff with the exception of the Nest hub and one Chromecast for travel.
Apple announced the HomePod Mini yesterday, and it looks pretty compelling for $99 if you’re deep in the Apple ecosystem like I am. However, I already have a Sonos One + HomePod setup at my house so I don’t anticipate buying any of those at this time – but I could see myself adding a few as “cheap” Airplay 2 speakers down the road.
However, one device that wasn’t announced yesterday that I long for would be a “HomePod Video” device.
Features I’d like in a “HomePod Video”
- A basic Siri interface to control music playback, HomeKit, etc. My only real expectations are to work as good as the HomePod.
- An always on display that can control HomeKit scenes
- Airplay 2 target to allow users to play videos in the kitchen or wherever this device lives.
- A way to show off photos from my iCloud Photo Library, ideally by choosing an album or two to rotate through.
- A decent speaker – something a step down from the HomePod (I’d assume the same hardware as the HomePod Mini) but still good enough.
- UI tweaks for things like notifications, timers and communication.
- Ability to do FaceTime calls.
You can cobble together something like this with an iPad mini, external speakers and a stand of some kind but I’d love to see Apple continue to invest in the home ecosystem like they appear to be with the HomePod Mini. Maybe next year. I think Apple could charge roughly ~$250 for a device like this and it’d really tie the room together.