How Apple could fix HomePod’s white ring problem


Apple HomePod smart speaker Listening History
HomePod has caused issues for some users.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

One of the least welcome aspects of the HomePod smart speaker is its propensity for leaving unsightly white rings on your tables, due to an interaction between the silicone used in the device and the wood.

According to one industrial designer, however, the problem could be solved by Apple without too much cost — although there may be a bit of retooling of their equipment required.

Business Insider spoke to a range of industrial designers to find out their thoughts on the latest “-gate” suffix issue to drum up controversy for Apple.

Gregor Berkowitz, a product development consultant for various consumer electronics brands, suggested the problem may be an oversight due to Apple’s inexperience making stereos or speakers, which are stationary products. Berkowitz said that Apple may have to re-tool its silicone manufacturing, but that doing so could stop HomePods from leaving white rings. This, he suggested, could “take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks.”

Apple has so far acknowledged the issue, but claimed that it can be dealt with either by removing the speaker from the wood surface (with the white ring vanishing after a few days), or else sanding and re-varnishing the wood. It is extremely unlikely that Apple will plump for a product recall, although the company will probably re-examine its silicone material when it comes to put out a HomePod v2 — of possibly even before.

Lack of QA testing?

Perhaps the bigger cause for concern from the Business Insider piece comes from designers’ claims that Apple likely didn’t do enough quality assurance testing. “I’m actually very surprised,” said Cesar Viramontes, a Senior Industrial Designer at Y Studios, told the website.

“They didn’t test the product enough and in the right variety of circumstances, especially considering that a wood surface is a very likely support for the product,” said Ignazio Moresco, a product design expert who has worked at frog design, Microsoft and Ericsson. “They should have caught the issue if they followed a rigorous QA process.”

Given some of the concerns about Apple’s recent lack of quality assurance testing with software, it’s not good to think that some of that lack of attention to detail may have also extended to hardware.

For now, if you’re a HomePod user hoping to avoid leaving white marks on your furniture, make sure to check out our “how to” (or, in this case, “how not to”) article here.