Apple has started selling refurbished HomePod in the US.

One must ask why a refurbished Homepod exists – apparently in large quantities? After all, it is the sole Siri and Apple Music compatible speaker.

Apple does sell a fair bit of Certified refurbished stuff via a dedicated U.S. site. These units largely come from media and commercial review samples (Apple usually allows the use of these products for six months before return).

Refurbishment usually means wiping the hard disk clean, updating the firmware, replacing a battery, giving a bit of polish and a one-year warranty. Prices are about 20% below retail. Apple does not usually discount, except on run-out items.

However, we are hearing rumours of far higher than expected return rates for HomePod speakers.

My spies at JB reckon hundreds, if not many more, HomePods have come back to haunt them. It is way above the average in comparison to Google Assistant speakers.

Refurbished HomePod

We probed a little further about possible causes of the refurbished HomePod sales.

Q: Is it breakdown or sound quality issues?

A: No – real breakdowns are negligible. It is one of the better sounding smart speakers.

Q: Is it due to the voice control experience not living up to expectations?

A: To a degree. The Siri experience is not stellar. To be fair, it takes time to get the most out of voice commands and a lot more effort to make real use of them. However, compared to Google Assistant Siri is very limited.

Q: What type of person is buying the speaker?

A lot of these are ‘gifts’ without people understanding the recipient really needs to have an Apple environment – iPhone, Apple TV, iPad or Mac to use it. We now ask if the purchaser has this or uses Android. If it’s the latter then LG, Panasonic and JBL are the options.

Q: What are the biggest complaints?

A: The typical comment is that it sounds great, but it does not meet expectations. In other words, it is a great small speaker from a hardware perspective. It’s the expectations that are the issue.

For example, while advertisements state it has Bluetooth, it cannot stream music via that. It uses Apple AirPlay 2 and Wi-Fi. That is why we ask about the environment first now.

Next the voice control issue. Too many are simply saying it does not meet their expectations as to what it can do. Apple has been careful not overpromising here, but purchasers assume it can do everything a Google Assistant can. It can’t.

Others complain that music voice commands only work if you have a subscription to Apple Music. Voice cannot control Spotify – you must use an iPhone to do that.

Then there is the Home Kit integration. It is not easy – there is a bit of rocket science needed.

Then there was a setup failed error for early adopters, and there are still firewall issues with many routers. Also, Mac users where having issues.

Q: Does it take your staff more time to support a HomePod sale?

A: Yes. When someone calls for help, we point to the HomePod troubleshooting site but honestly for a $499 ‘sell and forget’ product no one is willing to accept less than perfection. These issues alone were the major causes of a flood of returns.

Q: What about Apple’s return policy?

A: Well, it is also being abused – giving buyers a no-risk 14-day trial. Our salesman alert customers to the existence of the ‘risk-free’ trial.

GadgetGuy’s take. Apple HomePod returns are obviously driving refurbished HomePod sales

We can only speculate that higher than usual returns, in part facilitated by Apple’s return policy are a primary reason for refurbished HomePod sales.

Apple HomePod (GadgetGuy review here) is a great sounding speaker. We had no issues setting up the speaker, but then we are GadgetGuys.

If you are considering it, then look carefully at what it can do. Apple Music – yes. Everything else, maybe.