Apple HomePod slammed for staining wooden surfaces amid reports the firm gets £95 from the sale of each speaker

If you treat all speakers as equal – which isn’t a particularly sensible point to start from, but if you do – you may find yourself wondering how Apple’s new HomePod can be so much more expensive than smart speakers from Google and Amazon. After all, for the price of a new HomePod, you can currently buy three new Echoes and a Dot, should you wish. Is the HomePod really that much better?

Well, yes – apparently it is. A teardown from TechInsights revealed by Bloomberg shows a set of components that cost a total of $216 (~£154) that costs $349 (~£249) in the United States, leaving a potential profit on each unit of $133 – or around £95.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account marketing, R&D and so on, but it’s an interesting point all the same – especially when you consider this is a relatively slim margin for Apple. The iPhone X, for example, is rumoured to cost $357.50 to make, but sells for a whopping $999. It points to a company that, like Apple with its low-cost Echo devices, is trying to get a foothold in the market, and is happy to take a hit in the short run to do so.Apple HomePod top

But how did TechInsights get to that point? Well, the company estimates that the parts that make up its internals – the tweeter, woofer, microphone and power management chips – come to $58, while smaller bits like the lighting system for Siri come in at $60. The Apple A8 processor that provides its smarts comes in at $25.50, the memory at $22, the WiFi module at $6.50 and mixed signal parts at $1.50. The missing $17.50 is allocated to manufacturing, testing and packaging.

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It is worth noting at this point that Tim Cook claimed that third-party estimates are never accurate. Back in 2015 he made this point quite forcefully on an earnings call, saying: “generally there are cost breakdowns around our products that are much different than the reality. I’ve never seen one that is anywhere close to being accurate.”

Put a ring on it

Despite its pricey cost, many people are discovering a nasty side effect of the HomePod the hard way. The HomePod doesn’t respect wood. It’s leaving white rings on wooden surfaces all over the place.

Apple has acknowledged this problem, although its reasoning isn’t exactly reassuring. The support page has been updated to read that “mild marks” are common to “any speaker with a vibration-dampening silicone base”, explaining that it’s the result of “oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface.”

The company claims that the stains will likely fade over time, and recommends cleaning the surface if they don’t – which is hardly revelatory advice, but marginally better than nothing I suppose. The company does have one final tip you might find useful though: “We recommend placing your HomePod on a different surface.” Oh.

It’s alright advice, I suppose, but would have been considerably more helpful if it had been on the support page before people had bought one and put it on a wooden table. Still: now you know.

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