As expected, Apple today unveiled a smaller version of its HomePod smart speaker, the HomePod Mini. Priced at $99 (the same as Google's new Nest speaker, but closer in dimensions to the Nest Mini), the HomePod Mini will support Apple's HomeKit for smarthome devices, include a new intercom feature, and integrate with various third-party services... but there's one major thing missing from the announcement: Spotify.
Apple of course wants HomePod users to use its own Apple Music service, but leaving out mention Spotify — which remains the world's most popular music-streaming service, despite Apple's efforts — is going to make it a tough sell, especially for those already invested in a rival smarthome speaker system, like Google's or Amazon's.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story suggested the Apple HomePod Mini wouldn't support Spotify. Apple has previously said it's opening its platform to third parties, so Spotify can choose to participate. We regret the error.
"HomePod mini is designed to work with Apple Music, podcasts, radio stations from iHeartRadio, radio.com, and TuneIn, and in the coming months, popular music services including Pandora and Amazon Music," Apple says in the press release about the HomePod Mini. Even Amazon is getting a shoutout, but no such luck for Spotify. Now, it could be that Apple's ongoing legal battle with Spotify means it was disinclined to namecheck its rival, but that support for the service could follow. But not advertising it out of the gates is a bold — or, if you prefer, "brave" — move.
A glaring omission — Apple's already on the backfoot when it comes to the smart speaker market. Its original HomePod launched long after Amazon and Google entered the market, and the launch price of $349 meant limited uptake. Then there's the problem of Siri. It might be on "one billion" devices, according to Apple, but that doesn't mean one billion people use it. Especially considering that total includes Mac computers and not just iPhones.
By seeking to exclude Spotify from the advertised features of the HomePod ecosystem, Apple's ensuring some consumers won't even consider it. Should Spotify choose not to participate in Apple's third-party support program it could seriously affect the HomePod's appeal.
Spotify isn't the only company getting the silent treatment from Apple. In its iPhone 12 launch event, the company also avoided any mention of Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite and Unreal Engine — with which it's embroiled in an ugly legal battle — choosing instead to talk up a new partnership with League of Legends: Wild Rift from developer Riot Games. "Wild rift" is exactly what Apple has with Epic, and it just got not just wilder, but wider.
Hearing double — Like Google's Nest speaker, users will be able to use two HomePod Minis for stereo sound, and the devices will support multi-room audio. The illuminated touch surface on top of the speaker lets users play, pause, or skip tracks, adjust volume, or wake Siri. On the security front, the HomePod devices will only provide responses to queries about personal information when a user's iPhone is nearby them, so housesitters (for instance) won't be able to pry on your digital life when you're not around.
Orders open next month — Orders for the Apple HomePod Mini open on November 6, and the devices will start shipping on November 16. It's available in white or charcoal (well, "Space Gray" in Apple's parlance), but none of the cheerful pastel hues Google likes to wrap its Nest Mini speakers in. At $99 it's by no means a cheap smart speaker, but it's nonetheless Apple's cheapest.