Added on Sunday 29 November 20
A couple of years ago i tried a first generation full size HomePod. I really liked it, but i ended up returning it because it didn’t do enough to justify the price. The value wasn’t good. Roll forward a few years and things have changed. The HomePod mini is wonderful value. It’s not changed my life, but it’s already become a tool i use everyday.
This is a quick review focusing on how i am using the HomePod mini to support my day to day autonomy and independence. I’ll talk through some of the basics of how i have it setup, then give some examples of ways its proving useful.
I recently redesigned my bedroom and converted it into a bedroom studio.. The HomePod mini arrived shortly before i started the conversion and become more useful after i made the changes. I have the HomePod sat on the end of my desk. It as has my monitor to one side, and my sofa to the other.
The HomePod mini feels expensive. It’s very dense. It feels much heavier in the hand than i expected. It also has a really nice braided cable leading to a USB-C plug. While the HomePod has a USB-C cable, it drew too much power for me to plug it into my Mac mini. It’s plugged into the small USB-C power brick that came in the box.
Placed where it is i can see it from all the main places in my room. My speech is not super reliable; being able to see the top light up helps me to know i spoke clearly enough for the pod to hear me.
I’m using the HomePod for all the obvious things. For example, listening to podcasts and music. It sounds very good given its size and cost. It’s not as impressive as the original HomePod, but its still pretty damn decent.
There are lots of great reviews about the sound of the HomePod mini. I like this review from Jason Snell quite a lot. . For the rest of this review i’m going to focus more on the autistic life angle. How the HomePod helps with my autonomy and independence.
Around the time the HomePod mini arrived i also started some new medications. The new meds had to be taken 4 times a day. I have always found taking meds tricky. I tend to loose track of them or forget them outright. Without help, i tend to take only around 25% of the meds i am suppose too.
This time around i tried something different. Each time i took my meds, i set a timer on the HomePod for when the next round of meds where due. When the timer went off, i knew it was meds time again. This quickly become a useful pattern. I now use the HomePod only for the most important alarms.
Having it reserved only for important things helps to make sure i don’t ignore it or forget to act when the alarm is triggered. With the HomePods help i completed 82.14% of my meds. A new record!
I’ve had hue lights in my home for years. Until now i have mostly used them via presets and light switches. I have a light switch by the door, but also in my bed. Each preloaded with settings which make sense when entering the room or heading to bed.
Outside of those situations i’ve been using the HomePod. Normally its more to do with brightness than tuning things on and off. “Hey Siri, please set the lights in here to 1% brightness” is probably the most common command i use.
The other place where the HomePod is useful is controlling lights outside of my bedroom. At bedtime i will instruct the HomePod to turn off all the lights in the flat. If i am wobbly on my feet being able to do everything from bed is pretty useful.
This isn’t a world changing improvement. I could do all of these things from my phone. The difference is that i can now do these things whenever i am in my room. It doesn’t matter if i have my phone out, away, on charge or in my bag. Siri has moved from a device feature to an ephemeral part of my environment.
With Siri as an ephemeral part of my environment i’m doing some things for the first time. A good example of something new is asking Siri questions about my day in order to work out my pacing. When in bed in the morning, before i pick up my phone, I ask Siri what meetings i have and when they start. I also ask Siri what the time is and how long untill something starts. With that info i might go back to sleep for a short time, or realise i need to get ready sharpish.
Helping me to pace my day is really helpful. It’s something i could do i on my phone, but never did.
While this is a review of the HomePod mini, for the most part it’s focused on Siri. The HomePod is just an embodiment of Siri. I mentioned above my speech is not always very reliable. I’ve encountered a few instances where Siri could not understand my speech, or i could not muster enough words to speak instructions in a clear way. “hey Siri, please turn on the lights” can be very trick to say. I can manage something like”Siri lights ta” but that doesn’t work.
It would also be handy to have some sort of short command function. Being able to activate Siri using a simpler keyword would be useful. A long sound (like “mooo”) works very for me. Being able to say something like “mooo time”, “moo lights on” “moo what doing today” would make Siri more useful to me more often.
All that said, when i can’t speak the HomePod is still useful. It’s still a great speaker for playing podcasts or being the sound output for my Mac mini.
I started the review by saying the HomePod mini is wonderful value and i think thats my biggest take away. It’s not changed my life but it provides plenty of usefulness to be worth a space on my desk.