Apple could avoid the Homepod 'white ring' issue, design experts say

Apple could avoid the Homepod 'white ring' issue, design experts say
Image credit: Trevor Daugherty

Apple jumped right into the smart speakers market with the release of the HomePod – the tubular-shaped dream of every audiophile – which came with a hefty $349 price tag, but brought an exceptionally good sound quality. The HomePod, however, came with a "feature" Apple had forgot to mention – the smart speaker had the habit of leaving white circles if it was placed on a wooden surface.

The issue has been reported many times in the past few weeks, although it only has occurred to a small portion of users. The white stains occur when the HomePod plays music – the vibrations cause the silicone underneath the speaker to react with the surface its placed on, which, if oil-stained wood, would result in stains. Apple has recognized the issue, advising owners who've encountered it to move their HomePod to another surface, then sand and re-varnish the stained wood to clean it. 

But could the Cupertino company avoid all the controversy in the first place? Apparently yes, if sufficient testing was conducted prior to the HomePod release, say industrial design experts.

"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 ex-product design expert at Microsoft and Ericsson, Ignazio Moresco. " They should have caught the issue if they followed a rigorous QA process", Moresco added.

"I'm actually very surprised," said Senior Industrial Designer of Y Studios, Cezar Viramontes, who also believes the 'white ring' problem will be tackled by Apple in the next round of manufacturing of the HomePod.

Regarding why the issue has made it through in the first place, product development consultant Gregor Berkowitz thinks it might be related to the lack of experience Apple has regarding the production of speakers in general. "This is sitting on a bookshelf. Is it going to work? Or are there going to be problems? A traditional consumer product company or a speaker company or a traditional Hi-Fi company is going to worry about that and think about those problems and have experience with it," Berkowitz said. He also mentioned Apple may have to rethink the manufacturing process to completely eliminate the issue. Berkowitz also thinks that tackling the white stains problem won't come cheap for Apple and will take some time – anywhere between two and six weeks.

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21 Comments

1. ijuanp03

Posts: 668; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

"This is sitting on a bookshelf. Is it going to work? Or are there going to be problems? A traditional consumer product company or a speaker company or a traditional Hi-Fi company is going to worry about that and think about those problems and have experience with it" Well that's being lazy. Considering Apple is a multi-billion company.

2. Mihail.Nikolov

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 25, 2018

Apple probably never even thought about the stains issue happening, but still, you have to test before you do the rest.

11. sgodsell

Posts: 7605; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Apple never tested the iPhones in the cold, and there was that issue as well. As for this product, the best thing that any consumer can do right now is to avoid purchasing the HomePod.

13. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

It’s not necessarily something you think about, I design speakers, I’ve designed Bluetooth speakers with rubber feet, it’s never been an issue, but that’s not to say I purposely would test on lots of surfaces - you just don’t consider it until it’s a problem. Apple’s choice of rubber is obviously an issue, but it could be no-one who tested it had oiled wooden furniture in trendy California!

16. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1348; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Ditto, plus they do have experience making other products that usually sit on flat surfaces such as wood. Laptop and desktop computers come to mind.

3. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Apple sucks! Cheap products selling for a high price with almost no testing. They don't give a rats ass about their customers, they only care about the money!

5. rouyal

Posts: 1583; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

Apple has the highest customer satisfaction followed very closely by Samsung. Not bad for a company that doesn’t care about it’s customers. But don’t let facts get in the way of your Apple bashing. Who wants to bet the response will be that iPhone users are sheep?

6. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

But they are sheep, this is well known! Sheeple is a word now!

14. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

It may well be a word but it doesn’t just apply to Apple users - Android users here seem at least as bad, they’re sheeple too.

18. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1348; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

I think they changed it but the original definition by Merriam Webster directly referenced Apple sheeple.

15. ssallen

Posts: 214; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Well, maybe you should look at your own facts. Samsung had exploding phones and washing machines and they STILL have high customer satisfaction? Maybe the fanboyism in both camps DOES account for something afterall? Nah, your right, Apple just makes perfect products and should be above criticism. And certainly they need your help evangelizing their every move. Baaaaaaaaaa!

12. alumoyo

Posts: 392; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

Remember SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 7?

20. Klinton

Posts: 1409; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

Yup. I remember it. Great device. US an China OEMs were so scared of Note 7 that even used their governments and media to sabotage it.

4. cmdacos

Posts: 4333; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

No kidding....

8. Anonymous.

Posts: 423; Member since: Jun 15, 2016

So the Apple engineers did not test the HomePod before releasing it as a consumer-ready gadget?

9. gamehead unregistered

Probably the worst smart speaker

10. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Wouldn't a 75 cent rubberized base solve this on the cheap? Or three or four rubberized stickum pads from Home Depot? Why is this a major design issue? It is a cock up on Apple's part but doesn't sound like it requires a redesign.

22. ozgur781sen

Posts: 37; Member since: Mar 11, 2015

Apple could have included a rubber that you place on the base just like the one Google Home Max comes with.

23. cheetah2k

Posts: 2300; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Apple never tested the iphone in the hand with #antennagate either.. ah well. All they need to do is sell it with a beer coaster. cheapest fix ever..

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