Last year, Apple released iOS and iPadOS 14 to the public alongside new iPhones. They also introduced a new, smaller iteration of their HomePod smart speaker called HomePod mini. The mini has many of the great features found in its older sibling but in a smaller package and with an even smaller price. HomePod mini costs just $99 and is only 3″ tall. For a small speaker the sound is phenomenal and having Siri built-in makes it the perfect smart home companion.
In addition to being a great-sounding speaker with a built-in digital assistant, HomePod mini features a new feature called Intercom.
Intercom is part of Apple’s Home app, and as such integrates with not just your HomePod or HomePod mini, but also with your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and even CarPlay-enabled vehicles. It can also be used hands-free using AirPods Pro.
It requires iOS or iPadOS 14.2 or later, and it’s very similar to the Announcement feature found on Amazon Echo devices.
Testing. 1, 2, 3…
As its name implies, Intercom turns your smart speakers and Apple devices into a network of intercom units that can be used to make announcements.
To use it, simply say “Hey Siri, Intercom” followed by your announcement.
Your message will be played over the HomePods in your home and be sent as a notification to your other devices.
Select your target audience.
You can choose to isolate your message to specific rooms. For example, tell Siri you’d like to use Intercom in the living room, and the message will only play over speakers assigned to the living room.
After listening to a message, users can say “reply” and simply speak their response.
There isn’t currently a way to send messages to specific people, but it would be cool to see Apple extend the Walkie-Talkie app on Apple Watch to other devices in the future. Additionally, Apple doesn’t offer a transcription of the message. This seems odd since dictation is offered across Apple devices, and also because it’s available from competing products such as Amazon’s Echo devices. Maybe they will add this in the future.
I would also like to see an option where certain key phrases are recognized similar to Amazon’s smart speaker system. For example, if you announce “it’s dinner time” using Amazon Echo, the device will play a dinner bell sound before playing the announcement. There are a lot of areas where Apple will be able to build upon this feature in the future and hopefully they will.
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