Apple has released its long-awaited AirPods Pro upgrade with better microphones, a new in-ear design, and (finally) active noise cancelling. They also come with a much higher $250 price tag. One thing Apple has not improved is the repairability. iFixit has completed its customary teardown of the new AirPods, and they get the same score as the last version: a big, fat zero.
Apple has led the charge to make mobile devices thinner and lighter at the expense of repairability. The iPhone has never had so much as a removable battery, even back when Android and Windows Phone devices did. The AirPods were among the first true wireless earbuds on the market, and they’ve been wildly successful for Apple. However, they have been disposable pieces of technology since launch.
As iFixit points out, there’s nothing you can do if your Airpods Pro break — simply opening the glued-together casing will likely damage the hardware, and Apple doesn’t offer replacement parts. Even the silicone ear tips use a non-standard design that makes them incompatible with third-party replacements. Accessing the microphones also required iFixit’s engineers to cut through the stem’s plastic housing.
The battery is probably going to be the first thing to go, and you can’t replace that even if you manage to open the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro use a small button cell-style rechargeable battery, which is very similar to the one used in Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. iFixit found that you could replace the battery in the Galaxy Buds, but Apple has chosen to mount the battery with a soldered cable. So, you can’t realistically expect to replace that yourself.
Apple does offer a “battery service” program for the AirPods Pro, which gets you a new battery installed for $49 per earbud. If you needed to replace both batteries after a year or two, the $100 bill would be a significant chunk of the price for a new set of earbuds.
While we don’t necessarily expect super-small electronics like this to be easy to disassemble, the AirPods Pro are particularly tough to repair. Samsung’s Galaxy Bugs managed a six out of ten for repairability, which is better than some phones. The AirPods Pro get a zero, which isn’t a great look for a company that takes every opportunity to crow about how much renewable energy and recycled material it uses.
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