Apple's mini smart speaker

HomePod mini

Homepod Mini White Cropped

Amazon's mini smart speaker

Echo Dot (4th Gen, 2020 release)

Echo Dot 4th Gen

The HomePod mini is Apple's take on the smart speaker. You get great sound for its small size, Siri voice control, seamless integration with all of your Apple devices, and you can use one or more HomePod minis as speakers for your Apple TV.

$99 at Apple

Pros

  • Works seamlessly with Apple devices
  • Siri voice control
  • Use as a speaker for Apple TV
  • Great sound

Cons

  • Pricey for its size
  • Not for anyone outside the Apple ecosystem

Amazon's Echo Dot can connect to hundreds of different services including Apple Music, Spotify, Sirius XM, and Amazon Music amongst others. You can then use Alexa to control your your smart home.

$50 at Amazon

Pros

  • Integrates with multiple services, including Apple Music
  • Alexa voice control
  • Smart home integration
  • Inexpensive for the features included

Cons

  • Tinny sound
  • Not a lot new over the previous generation

Mini-smart speakers have become commonplace. Go to anybody's home and you are likely to find one in the kitchen or living room. Both Apple and Amazon currently have similar-looking, yet very different, versions of a mini smart speaker available. Let's take a look at the Apple HomePod mini and the Amazon Echo Dot and see what is similar, what is different, and which one is the best for you.

HomePod mini vs Amazon Echo Dot: Let's compare

You may buy a smart speaker for many reasons, including playing music and podcasts, controlling smart home devices, and asking a voice assistant to play the news or weather report. Both of these smart speakers can help with that, but what else is there on offer? Let's take a look at some key similarities and differences.

HomePod mini Echo Dot
Price $99 $50
Voice Assistant Siri Alexa
Color choice Space gray or white Charcol, glazier white, or twilight blue
Size 3.3-by-3.9-inches 3.5-by-3.9-inches
Weight 12.16 oz 12.00 oz
Speaker technology Full-range driver and dual passive radiators 1.6-inch front-firing speaker
Airplay 2 Yes No
Ultra-Wideband Yes No
Thread Yes No
Intercom Yes Yes
Audio out No Yes
HomeKit Yes No
Smart home hub Yes Yes
Touch controls Yes Yes
Services Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, iTunes, iCloud Music Library, TuneIn, Pandora, iHeartRadio Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Sirius XM, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Audacy, and many more

The HomePod mini and the Echo Dot have very similar visual designs. They are both spherical smart speakers that weigh virtually the same. The HomePod mini is actually 0.2 inches smaller than the Echo Dot, but they both have the same 3.9-inch width. As far as color choices go, the HomePod mini is available in space gray or white, while the Echo Dot can be purchased in charcoal, glazier white, or twilight blue.

The HomePod mini has more networking features such as Thread and Ultra-Wideband. Both are smart hubs and the HomePod mini integrates directly with HomeKit accessories. However, the Echo Dot has an audio out jack so that you can use it with external speakers, while there is no way to output audio with the HomePod mini.

HomePod mini vs Amazon Echo Dot: Exploring the features

Echo Dot TableSource: Amazon

The HomePod mini is, at its heart, an Apple speaker. It has great sound coming from its relatively small body. It uses Siri for voice control, so iPhone users will immediately be familiar with how to use it. It integrates with HomeKit so it will control all of your HomeKit devices. All you have to do is ask Siri to play your favorite song or turn on the lights, and you're all set. It works best with an Apple Music subscription, although selected other music services will integrate with Siri, such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Deezer. You can, however, play anything from your iPhone or iPad on your HomePod mini via AirPlay 2, but that does defeat the purpose of a voice-controlled smart speaker.

The HomePod mini is, at its heart, an Apple speaker.

The HomePod mini will also integrate with your Apple TV, so if your TV speakers don't cut it, you can have an inexpensive way of adding sound to your favorite TV shows and movies. You can even use it as an intercom to reach other HomePods or HomePod minis in your home, as well as any iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch on your account.

Using the Echo Dot is quite similar. You can use Alexa to find the music you want to listen to from almost any music service available, not just limited to the few that are compatible with the HomePod mini. Simply link your account in the Alexa app and the Echo Dot will recognize the command when you ask for it. For example, "Play Queen on Apple Music" or "Play Howard Stern on Sirius XM". You can also control your smart home with any device that is integrated with Alexa, and even play audiobooks and podcasts throughout your home from your favorite services.

The Echo Dot also has an intercom feature that you can use to call other Echo devices throughout your home. You can also make announcements that will reach every Echo device in your home, so instead of yelling that dinner is ready, you can simply ask Alexa to make an announcement.

The Echo Dot is also a portal to your Amazon account, so you can easily reorder items that you regularly order from Amazon such as paper towels or laundry detergent simply by asking Alexa to order them. Your Echo Dot will also send you notifications when a delivery has arrived or a reminder if it's time to reorder a product.

HomePod mini vs Amazon Echo Dot: Controls and sound

Homepod Mini ReviewSource: Stephen Warwick / iMore

The HomePod mini has a touchpad on top with volume up and down control. You can use the touchpad to tap commands such as advancing tracks or summoning Siri. The Echo Dot features volume up and down buttons, a mic on/off button, and an action button that has different uses in different scenarios.

According to Apple, the HomePod mini has a "full-range driver and dual passive radiators for deep bass and crisp high frequencies." This means that you can expect clear, loud, undistorted sound pumping out of the HomePod mini. In contrast, the Echo Dot has a single 1.6-inch front-firing speaker. At peak volumes, the Echo Dot has some distortion, but that's not really unexpected for a speaker that costs $50. If it's sound quality you are looking for, the HomePod mini will clearly produce better sound than the Echo Dot.

HomePod mini vs Amazon Echo Dot: Which should you buy?

Homepod Mini Power CableSource: Apple

The decision on which mini smart speaker to buy comes down to many factors, and one of the most important may be the price. The HomePod mini is $99 and the Echo Dot is $50 (although you can frequently find it on sale for less). Is paying double the price worth it for the Homepod mini? Or should you save some money and grab an Echo Dot? Or perhaps buy two Echo Dots for the price of one HomePod mini?

Your choice might also come down to your preferred ecosystem. If you are deep into the Apple ecosystem (like a lot of iMore readers), are an Apple Music subscriber, want a hub to control your HomeKit devices, and want a great-sounding small speaker, then the HomePod mini may be what you are looking for. Your music will also sound better on a HomePod mini than it will on an Echo Dot.

If you are a regular Amazon customer, if you subscribe to multiple services that you want to control with your voice, if you want more robust voice control, or if you want to pay half the cost of a HomePod mini, then the Echo Dot is for you. Just keep in mind that you are not going to get stellar audio performance out of it, but you will get a more versatile speaker. Since it's half the price of a HomePod mini, why not pick up two of them and expand your smart speakers to different rooms around your home.

Whichever speaker you choose, you are getting a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy your music and control your devices apart from your phone or computer. I think back to how fast the smart speaker market has grown and I can't wait to see what advances the future brings.

Apple's own

Homepod Mini White Cropped

HomePod mini

Apple's take on the mini smart speaker

The best HomePod mini feature is the great sound that you get in such a small package. You also get Siri voice control and HomeKit control.

4th Gen Dot

Echo Dot 4th Gen

Echo Dot (4th Gen, 2020 release)

What can't it do?

The Echo Dot is an extremely versatile smart speaker that can integrate with many of your favorite services, control your smart devices, and even tell jokes. Just don't expect great sound at higher volumes.

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