I went to pick up my Apple HomePod and got a dire warning

Commentary: When you buy Apple's new musically smart speaker, you're told to be very careful with it or it'll really cost you.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives    

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It really is quite pretty.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It was such a sunny day in Northern California on Friday.

Little did I know that it would be clouded by portents of doom. 

After all, I was wandering along to my local Apple store in Marin County to pick up an Apple HomePod on launch day.

I'd never bought a first-generation Apple product before, preferring the company to iron out kinks before I give it my louchely earned lucre. 

For utterly irrational reasons, I felt good about the HomePod

Yes, it's expensive. But I couldn't bear the idea of a Google Home or Amazon Echo -- aka the salt cellar and the garbage can -- in the house. Aesthetics, you understand. (I can feel you pitying me.)

I presented the QR code kindly texted me by Apple that morning and the store employee, a rather positive sort, insisted I'd be so very, very excited about getting my new toy.

"We've been playing with it here all morning and the sound fills the whole store. It's incredible," he said.

"Incredible sounds good," I thought to myself. "But is that better than, say, magical and revolutionary?" It's hard to tell with Apple's constant embrace of superlatives.

We chatted pleasantly for a little while, as we waited for the HomePod to emerge from the back.

But when it did arrive, the atmosphere changed.

"Now I have to warn you," the store employee began. Oh. 

"The cable is permanently attached to the HomePod. If you rip it, it'll cost you almost as much as the HomePod itself to repair," he said.

Naturally, someone has already tried to rip it off. And on Sunday, 9to5 Mac reported that it had seen an internal memo that said the power cable would be replaced for a mere $29 in certain circumstances. Apple didn't respond to a request for confirmation.

I didn't have time to react, as he continued: "A pet or a vacuum cleaner catches it, and it'll be really expensive." 

I insisted I had neither of these things.

He barely listened and added: "Unless you've got AppleCare."


The math is painful. The HomePod costs $350. Repairing it costs $279, as revealed by Apple support -- and my Apple store salesman -- on Friday. 

As for AppleCare+ for HomePod, which extends your coverage to two years, that's $39. 

The Apple store employee admitted that he was duty-bound to lay out his fears for my gadget-caring inadequacies. 

It is, though, rare for a product to cost almost as much to repair as to buy. Repair costs for Apple products are going up, though. The cost of repairing an iPhone X screen? Why, $279.

In the case of the HomePod, unless you have AppleCare+, why wouldn't you just buy a new one, rather than wait an unspecified period for your own to be repaired?

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. It's likely, however, that the high cost of repair is linked to the fact that the product is one whole piece, with seemingly no place of entry to outsiders at all.

The mesh of the device, though, will surely attract some scratching-obsessed cats. Which, in my experience, is most cats. It'll be fascinating to see whether there will be a sudden surge of cat-related snafus.

I walked out with my head hanging a little lower, worried about a neighbor's cat wandering into our house. A few hours later, it actually happened, as a lithe ginger cat sauntered in to look around. (The front door's open when it's warm.)

I want to end on an uplift, however. Let's talk about the HomePod's cable. It's thick and sturdy-looking. It doesn't look as if it will fray like, well, every other Apple cable I've owned. It doesn't look easy to yank off, even if you're an aggressive vacuum cleaner or a rabid cat.

Why doesn't the person who designed this cable design all of Apple's others?

I brought my HomePod home. It took but a minute to set up. It's actually quite pretty and the sound is clear and strong. Although Siri has already begun to protest that she's can't play my music any louder than she is already. 

"Try harder," I keep pleading.

Now, though, it's me against the neighborhood cats. I wonder if I could charge their owners $279 if their cat scratches my HomePod.

Updated 2.07 p.m.: adds report of Apple repairing cable in certain circumstances.