AirPods Pro Teardown Highlights Poor Repairability Headed For The Junk Heap

Apple AirPods Pro Teardown
No sane person would yank $249 out of their wallet or purse and proceed to flush it straight down the toilet, but if something were to happen to your Apple AirPods Pro earbuds beyond the warranty period, well, the outcome will be the same—you'll be out a big wad of cash. This unfortunate reality is highlighted in a teardown of the fancy new earphones.

Apple on Monday formally introduced the AirPods Pro, and they are the company's first branded wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling technology baked inside. They come with three different ear tip sizes to help find a good fit, and they are made of silicone to help create a tighter seal, keeping external noise out of your ear holes.

Now just a few days later, the folks at iFixit posted an detailed teardown of the AirPods Pro, and unfortunately discovered it's not really feasible to attempt a do-it-yourself repair of these earbuds. The silicone tips pop off easily enough, but diving any deeper is a chore.

Technically, the AirPods Pro can be taken apart. After removing the silicone tips (which, by the way, are Apple's own design, meaning you can't swap them out with aftermarket tips), a heat gun and a bit of pressure from a vice grip will get the seal around the head of the earbuds to crack open. From there, a spudger comes in handy.

Apple AirPods Pro Battery

Once inside, you'll notice glue—Apple didn't exactly go light on adhesive. The battery is probably the primary reason why someone might want to perform a DIY teardown and repair of a wireless earbud, and in this case, there's a 3.7V lithium-ion button cell battery inside.

It's not easily replaceable, though. For one, batteries are heat sensitive, so put that heat gun away. Secondly, there is a "moat of white, rubbery, alcohol-resistant adhesive" holding it in place. The battery is also tethered by a solder cable, further complicating extraction.

Challenges abound whether is the battery or something else in need of servicing. However, Apple did not design these earbuds to be repaired, according to Wired's Lauren Goode.
"An update to Monday’s report: Apple has confirmed that the new AirPods Pro are no more repairable than previous versions of the wireless earbuds. The pods are made partly with recyclable materials but due to size and build process (i.e glue) it doesn’t repair. Just replace," Goode stated on Twitter.

The teardown analysis essentially backs this up—like the AirPods 2 that came before it, the AirPods Pro completely flunked iFixIt's evaluation, earning a 0 out of 10 Repairability Score.

Apple AirPods Pro Opened

"While theoretically semi-serviceable, the non-modular, glued-together design and lack of replacement parts makes repair both impractical and uneconomical," the teardown gurus noted.

Is it fair to expect a pair of earbuds to be repairable? We'd argue it is, because today's wireless earphones are getting up there in price, due in part to the inclusion of active noise cancellation technology. And being wireless, the lifespan is somewhat bound by how long the internal battery can hold a charge. And finally, it's not a given that earbuds will be as difficult to repair as the AirPods Pro. Samsung's Galaxy Buds, for example, scored a 6 out of 10 Repairability Score in a separate teardown analysis.
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