Apple AirPods get a big fat easter egg for repairability from iFixit

airpod dismantling
© iFixit

It is hard, being an Apple fanboi hypocrite while preaching the virtues of all those Rs that include repair, because Apple products are not easy to fix. Jaymi has laid out the reasons Why Gadget Repairability Is So Damn Important, concluding:

Making repairable gadgets -- and repairing them when needed -- is simply the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. The sustainable thing to do. It's the environmentally and socially ethical thing to do.

Meanwhile I am writing this post on a MacBook Pro that Jaymi wrote about back in June, 2012, as getting a repairability score from our friends at iFixit of 1 out of 10. On the other hand, I bought it in August, 2012 and it is still going strong, so Apple is doing something right.

Owners who own other Apple products are not so happy; my daughter’s iPhone 6 has been through three repairs already. Fortunately iFixit gives it a respectable 7 out of 10. When I needed a new connector socket because I mashed all the pins in mine, an aftermarket shop was able to fix it easily and quickly.

Now, Apple has finally released the AirPods, the wireless headphones that are supposed to have great sound quality, connectivity and other magical features. iFixit got a hold of them and has done their usual deconstruction. They are not impressed.

guts of airpod© iFixit

Eager to see what’s inside, we ripped them open like expectant children on Christmas morning. And like children, we cried a little when we opened the box: the inside is a series of little boards, interconnected by origami-folded ribbon cables, soldered together into one hot mess. And the charging case isn’t any better. All in all, accessing any component—including the batteries in the case and in the ‘Pods—is impossible without total destruction.

They explain the problem, why it is so important to be able to fix things:

When products are glued shut and soldered together, like the AirPods, it costs recyclers more than they can earn from recovered materials. If AirPods are Apple’s new standard earbud, they'll sell hundreds of millions of them. That’s millions of AirPods that are, essentially, disposable.

final thoughtsiFixit/Screen capture

In the end, for the first time:

Accessing any case component is impossible without destroying the outer casing, earning the AirPods a nigh-unprecedented 0/10 on our repairability scale.

Many people will say that these are tiny little things, there is not that much to recycle out of them anyway, who cares? In the end, we all should. There are going to be millions of these out there and there are going to be tens of thousands that are lost, broken and chewed on by puppies. (I personally have lost two very expensive hearables to puppies, they smell you on them and they are gone in seconds). They may be small but it adds up to a big pile of recyclables that will not be repaired, reused or recycled.

I am a huge fan of wireless bluetooth connected headphones; I have been wearing them every waking hour for a few years. I have gone on at length about how great it is to have your iPhone inside your head. Mine are really expensive; I think that it is fabulous that lower cost options like the AirPods and IQbuds are coming on the market and I want them to do well.

But these are not zero maintenance items. They get a lot of hard use, and will fall out of ears and onto the ground. Puppies will chew on them. 0 out of 10 for repairability really stinks. Watch the iFixit video:

Tags: Apple Inc | Recycling | Repair | Reusability

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