After two years of the original AirPods, you would think that the second-generation model would be a lot easier to service whereas in fact the new Apple earbuds are some of the most disposable products that the repair wizards over at iFixit have ever seen.
We have some bad news
Let’s start with the bad first.
We were on cloud nine after tearing down Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, which proved that wireless earbuds can, in fact, be repairable. But dissecting the new AirPods felt like teardown déjà vu, requiring the same kind of brute force destruction that we used on Apple’s initial version two years ago.
Sure, these have fancy new H1 chips, but they’re still destined for the e-waste bin in a short time, leaving us feeling like Apple upgraded the wrong thing.
iFixit was “sad” to issue another zero out of ten, the same lowest repairability score that the renowned repair wizards gave to the original AirPods.
As for Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, iFixit found them to be surprisingly repairable: not only are they not held together by gobs of glue, but actually contain replaceable batteries—good enough for a repairability score of 6 out of 10.
AirPods 2 have new identifiers: A2031 (left) and A2032 (right). The original earbuds are also individually labeled with separate model numbers: A1722 (left) and A1523 (right).
The new wireless earbuds still weigh in at 4 grams (0.14 oz) each like the originals. As for Apple’s new Qi charging case, it is now actually 2.3 grams heavier at 40 grams (1.41 oz) versus the non-Qi AirPods charging case that weighs in at 38 grams (1.34 oz).
The difference amounts to the weight of a US penny.
Each bud has a 93 mWh battery (just like before), which is less than half the capacity of the coin-cell batteries in the Samsung buds. “We’re curious to see what will be powering the rumored Powerbeats Pro, but we’ll have to wait for that comparison,” iFixit wrote.
Most innovations in the new AirPods are attributed to Apple’s new H1 headphone chip (labeled Apple 343S00289), an enhanced and more power-friendly version of the W-series chips found inside the original AirPods, some Beats headphones and newer Apple Watch models.
The H1 silicon makes possible Hey Siri and brings Bluetooth 5 connectivity which enables two times faster speed and four times the range. Thanks to the chip design and Bluetooth 5, you’ll notice faster switching between devices and improved connection reliability.
It’s important to note that you won’t experience any Bluetooth 5 benefits unless your new AirPods are paired with a device that supports Bluetooth 5. All iPhones from iPhone 8 onward support Bluetooth 5.0, as do the iPad Pros, Mac minis and Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pros refreshed in 2018.
The 2018 MacBook Air, as well as iMacs, iMac Pros, Mac Pros, 2019 iPad Air and 2019 iPad mini 5 all use an older Bluetooth standard. In other words, using your AirPods with those devices will not yield the aforementioned Bluetooth 5 benefits.
Wireless charging case
As for the charging case (model number A1938 vs. the original case’s model number A1602), it still has that fancy dental floss look that we’ve grown to love.
Inside the top flop, iFixit found the no wheelie bin icon which indicates that the earbuds are not to be thrown away in two years when the batteries start to fail.
Slicing the case open revealed several internal changes:
- Wireless charging coil: The wireless charging coil is obviously a brand new component in the Qi-enabled charging case.
- LED light: The LED status light has been relocated to the case’s front. On the original earbud, the status light sits between the spaces in the case for the earbuds.
- Hinge: The machined metal hinge is a bit beefier and appears a lot sturdier compared to the last generation’s.
- Circuit board: The circuit board is blanketed with a waterproof coating.
For those wondering, the case battery (model A1596) is the exact same 398 mAh cell (at 3.81 V and 398 mAh, for 1.52 Wh) found in the first-generation case. iFixit notes that the case’s battery is still fifty percent bigger than the one in the Galaxy Buds case (1.03 Wh) and also more than the 1.113 Wh cell found in the 42mm Apple Watch Series 4.
It remains to be seen whether the aforementioned improvements will improve durability of the charging case. The hope here is that the new machined metal hinge design should result in fewer failures over time. The case is still problematic to service, however.
“This updated case seems designed for increased durability, but not repairability,” said iFixit. “That beefier hinge and water-repellent coating on the board probably makes for fewer failures—hopefully way fewer, because the rest of this thing is still a hot mess to service.”
Wrapping it all up
Taking it all in, iFixit has found that AirPods are still “disappointingly disposable”.
The tiny batteries are not replaceable at all, and they will degrade over time make no mistake about it. For some guidance, many owners of the original model started complaining about diminishing battery capacity in their second year.
Apple provides a battery replacement service, but the fees are exorbitant at $69 for a single out-of-warranty earbud battery replacement (the case battery is another $69).
What do you make of the engineering and design work that went into AirPods 2? Could have Apple done anything else to make them even better?
Meet us in comments!