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HomePod: If you like it, put a ring on it

Apple’s new HomePod, a smart speaker in the vein of the Amazon Echo and Google Home product lines, was released last week to mixed reviews. By all accounts, it’s a great-sounding speaker that is frustratingly limited in comparison to its more full-featured competitors, but most of that pales in comparison to the revelation that the device is damaging wooden furniture when placed upon it. From Wirecutter:

 An unhappy discovery after we placed a HomePod on an oiled butcher-block countertop and later on a wooden side table was that it left a defined white ring in the surface. Other reviewers and owners (such as Pocket-lint, and folks on Twitter) have reported the same issue as well. Apple attributes the problem to the oils diffused between the speaker’s vibration-dampening silicone base and the wood, and suggests wiping the marks with a damp or dry soft cloth, or else moving the HomePod to a different surface.

This is nothing short of an embarrassment for Apple, a company that once represented the pinnacle of product design. It seems insane that this didn’t come up at all during the development of the device, particularly when you consider that Apple employees have been testing it in their homes for almost a year. Not only that, but the Apple retail stores that HomePods are stocked and demonstrated in are full of attractive wooden tables.  How on earth did this slip by? The company has been accused of falling standards in hardware and software for a while now, and it’s not hard to see why. From an increasing abundance of iOS bugs to devices that literally damage your home, quality control at Apple clearly isn’t what it used to be.

Owning and using Apple products has always required a certain amount of sacrifice, even beyond the inflated price tags. Their phones and tablets and computers all play well together and form a well-integrated ecosystem that rewards you for fully embracing it, but entrance to that ecosystem comes with a price. You can’t ask Siri to play songs through Spotify or set default apps on your phone; Apple would much rather you stay within their walled garden for a (theoretically) better experience. Most Apple users are more-or-less okay with this, but requiring them to carefully choose where to place their HomePods lest it damage their furniture is outrageous. Judging by the reviews, the HomePod simply isn’t worth this cost; it might sound great, but Siri’s capabilities are extremely narrow when compared to those of Alexa or the Google Assistant. Apple customers are used to making concessions for the sake of simplicity, but this is one concession too far.

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