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Apple's new AirPods prove as unfixable as the old

Apple's AirPods have once again attained a iFixit score of 0. (Source: iFixit)
Apple's AirPods have once again attained a iFixit score of 0. (Source: iFixit)
The e-reparability authority iFixit had nothing but criticism for the first-gen AirPods when they came out. The wireless earbuds received a rare "repairability score" of zero from the company. Now, the new 2019 versions of these products have received the same rating.

Approximately 2 years ago, the original Apple AirPods went to the iFixit lab. They did not have a nice time there, as the company reported having to use vises, dremels and the seriously inadvisable application of razor blades near the individual earbuds' batteries in order to simply tear down the wearables and their case. This led iFixit to put the AirPods at the bottom of its repairability ratings, and to dismiss the electronics as e-waste in the making.

Now, there is a second generation of AirPods, which have the option of wireless charging in their little dental-floss-like case. This case, along with its matching buds, made a return journey to iFixit. Unfortunately, they did not manage to redeem themselves in reparability terms. This, unsurprisingly, is because Apple has not changed the design of these products from one year to the next.

On the other hand, the iFixit video presenter had greater success in dissembling the case this time around, based on the use of plastic picks and an approach informed by experience this time around. The DIY-kit maker found that the internals of the case had not changed much, besides the obvious addition of a wireless charging coil. This part exhibited slight shredding in response to removal, however.

All in all, iFixit concluded that the AirPod reparability had not improved with a second generation, and conferred the same score as the first on them. The group also observed that AirPods had retained the perception of being not much more than consumable or disposable items. However, at a price of US$79.99 for a wireless charging case alone, or $159.99 for stand-alone earbuds, the sustainability of that situation for buyers truly warrants some questioning.


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Deirdre O Donnell, 2019-04- 3 (Update: 2019-04- 4)