Apple debuted an updated HomePod speaker today, and one of the new features is its ability to track temperature and humidity with a built-in sensor. As it turns out, those are things that the smaller, cheaper HomePod Mini can do, too — even the ones that may already be in your home.
The company quietly added a feature overview to its website, indicating that Apple plans to switch on a latent temperature and humidity sensor that has been in the devices since launch but couldn’t previously be used. Having this sensor means you won’t need to buy a separate gadget to measure temperature or humidity and run Apple Home automations to, say, turn on a fan when it gets above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or adjust a compatible smart thermostat.
The temperature- and humidity-sensing features don’t seem to be live yet in iOS 16.2; several Verge staff couldn’t get theirs to work, even on the iOS 16.3 beta. But at least one person seems to have early access. Apple spokesperson Lance Lin confirmed the feature would arrive in an upcoming software update.
Once you start using the temperature- and humidity-sensing feature, there are a couple of caveats to bear in mind. In the footnotes of Apple’s HomePod Mini page, it details that the speaker requires “some time to calibrate the sensors immediately after starting up.” What’s more noteworthy is that Apple says that the “accuracy may decrease in some situations where audio is playing for an extended period of time at high volume levels.” So if you’re getting what you think are inaccurate results, maybe turn down the jams and check again after a little time has gone by.
It’s great that Apple has retroactively added a useful new feature for a device that’s already living in many people’s homes. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported in March 2021 that the HomePod Mini had the capability, and it took almost two years for it to come to light. So even if you don’t plan to upgrade to the bigger, much pricier HomePod now that one is readily available again, you won’t be left out of getting some cool smart home features. And personally, I just love the idea of secret sensors living in devices.