Following a press release announcement on Monday, Apple’s new AirPods Pro have begun arriving in customers’ hands, and of course repair site iFixit has wasted no time in tearing them down to see what’s new inside.
While Apple’s original AirPods packed a lot of groundbreaking technology into a very small package, Apple has clearly upped its game with its new AirPods Pro, which manage to cram in everything the standard AirPods offer, including Apple’s revolutionary H1 chip, while also adding more mics and sensors to support Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive EQ, and a new Transparency mode, all of which have to be heard to be truly appreciated
As iFixit notes, Apple has managed to do this in an even smaller package, with some obvious significant external changes as well, including of course the replaceable silicon tips, “pro-level” mesh grilles for pressure equalization, and a smaller bottom mic grille that provides better pickup for voice recording and phone calls.
The silicone ear tips of course pop on and off easily enough using some “fancy engineering,” but iFixit makes the observation that they’re not compatible with any other typical silicone ear tips used by other earphones, although to be fair there’s actually a good reason for this — most earphones use posts to hold the silicone tips on, whereas AirPods Pro leave that rather uncomfortable part out, creating a much softer and more comfortable in-ear fit, not to mention a larger opening for sound to make it into your ears.
If you need to replace your AirPods tips, Apple sells them for only $4, and although at least one of the three sizes Apple provides in its own tips should fit most users quite well, we’re fairly certain we’ll see other aftermarket options appearing soon for users who want more options.
Not surprisingly, opening up the AirPods Pro was no less of a challenge than with Apple’s original AirPods, revealing a lot of glue holding everything together and requiring liberal application of heat guns.
Inside, iFixit found that Apple has used a button cell battery this time around, rather than a proprietary one, although it was still soldered into the assembly. Combined with the difficulty in getting an AirPod Pro open in the first place, this means the battery isn’t really user-replaceable. Similarly, the connector that attaches the stem to the in-ear portion uses a detachable cable with extra slack, which was another surprise.
The battery actually appears to be similar to the one found in Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, running at the same 3.7 volts, but it’s a slightly different number, CP1154 in the AirPods Pro versus CP1254 in the Galaxy Buds, and based on volume suggests that the AirPods Pro packs in less capacity — iFixit estimates 168 mWh — although that certainly doesn’t seem to be reflected in the actual usable battery life of the AirPods Pro, and they’re still a big improvement over the second-gen AirPods which use a 93 mWh cylindrical battery.
Beyond the batteries, iFixit also found the voice coil driver and internal microphone used to listen to what’s going on inside your ear — which is used to measure correct fit and likely also powers features like Adaptive EQ.
In terms of the internal circuitry, iFixit discovered that Apple’s SiP board, where the H1 and other chips live, is actually smaller than the one used in the AirPods, which gave Apple extra space to work with as well as allowing it to make the AirPods Pro even smaller. It’s definitely a testament to Apple’s chip engineering skills that it’s able to keep shrinking the size of its circuitry while still adding features.
In fact, the SiP was so small that iFixit wasn’t able to reliably identify any of the chips beyond Apple’s prominent H1.
Cracking open the Wireless Charging Case appeared to be no less of a workout than the AirPods Pro themselves, with again lots of glue holding everything together, and more easily identifiable chips, two of which were identical to those found in the charging case for the second-gen AirPods, plus two new ones.
The new case also includes not one, but two battery cells, offering around 30% more capacity than the second-gen AirPods, plus a modular — and therefore theoretically replaceable — Lighting port on the bottom of the case.
Repairable or Replaceable?
Apple actually came out and admitted this time around that its AirPods Pro are not intended to be repairable, but would simply be swapped out when repairs are necessary (which is why the cost is the same whether you break an AirPod or lose it), however iFixit actually reluctantly conceded that the new AirPods Pro might be slightly more repairable than the original AirPods, at least by trained Apple professionals.
If not for Apple’s statement, we might have guessed they planned to repair these by replacing the in-ear portion of the ‘Pods (battery + driver + crusty old earwax) and reusing the original stems — including the SiP, antennas, microphones, and squeeze sensor. It’s not much, but it’s something!iFixit
Despite this, iFixit still assigned the AirPods Pro a repairability score of… (surprise!)… zero, since there’s no way for anybody outside of Apple to perfectly reassemble a dismantled AirPod. While Apple will undoubtedly recycle any AirPods that are returned for replacement service in order to recover parts and raw materials, which should help to assuage any environmental concerns, it seems that even Apple isn’t going to bother to try and repair them.